ja to be honest
i knew it was a bad idea
but i never turn down a bad idea
for no chance of success.
i would rather lie dully awake in the bright
morning with my fantasy
of the future—and this is in forest town,
johannesburg—did you ever imagine someone
so doomed would be thinking of you there?
but you’ll take it in stride.
if i won out of all this
it would be like the dog who caught the car
and so unworthy am i of this thing
i can hardly imagine.
so ja this is like the box of alcoholic jam i bought
at kernersville for the one i told you about,
it was the beginning of the end
and what a beginning it was.
it was with jam
thinking we would
key lime pie and thinking with
a puffed up chest
at the gas station in martinsville
that i really had it made;
it all ended in that warm house off
the last day i was happy
(i used to say that all the time).
i had to get up for church this morning
and because i could see the jig was up
i wrote you something
but then you knew that this was who i am—
i think you know
she said much and spoke so animatedly
that i felt sure she must have been drunk before
and she took a shine to me and
told stories bluntly how the people here do: how her
parents made money in mpumalanga but her
father died; how she had been to las vegas too
but really wanted to see the mountains out east,
even though they might well be racist, she
still felt fine.
all this with johannesburg sunk in bitter cold
so that even the lights of maboneng did us no good.
she wanted cigarettes and almost got them
but the corner shop had closed, but we
had our beers open the whole time
and drew no attention.
lovely, but she said she had a fiancé,
and that was fine; she talked much
and it was hard to all follow.
but this is africa too: this is it increasingly;
johannesburg is more like africa than i
can ever understand—
full of money, piss and gold and gourmet cheese
maboneng (is where it’s happening)
what makes me lucky is
i know what’s wrong with me.
imagine being in the dark about all that?
but i can lie in a hospital
ten thousand miles from home
and spend the whole time thinking
how nice it would be
if we were in richmond sometime
and our eyes met and we
fell there in love:
all gelatine summertime and skin
and skin—years in the making,
let me tell you—and you knowing
i really was in the hospital yesterday—
but you see how they misdiagnosed me;
they thought something was wrong with my body
but it’s much worse than that
my body is lame with fantasies;
ravaged by unreality.
it would rather see the sun setting
and even bleeding go to kalk bay,
flee into the hillside full of ghosts
of cattle and angels speaking khoi
with flaming spears. my body is sick
of the refusal to see things as they
after all this harshness
and bargaining with
it would rather wait for the moon until
what the eland know.
it would rather bury itself deep in the fynbos
and wait for fire.