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Judith Miller

of

Cape Town, South Africa

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A contemplation

by

Judith Miller

1.
Once you made me Turkish coffee
as we explored the wonder of life.
I engraved your initial on my thigh
in blue tattoo.
Afterwards you were childless
like me
and your twin sister.
Who will break the cycle?
I wonder.
We swam naked at
Nine Oaks;
only lofty trees looked on
our beauty.
Ah!
They said when you arrived
in Sydney
all your friends were there
to greet you -
a new diaspora.
Now I light a big fire
and sip a chilli soup
and remember
the heat of the summer
on Sandy Bay,
splashing in the icy surf -
Strandlopers -
our fat, shiny bodies
celebrated our lives.
Tramping illegal paths,
thumbs to the
authorities.
Yes, and at De Kelders
we hid in a cave -
now an archeological dig -
as the Secret Police
looked on with their binoculars,
then we returned
chastened
in my white Volksie.
Earlier we had shared
the pinball machine,
you on the left,
me on the right,
then I sat at the end
of your boxed bed
and looked on as you
and your girl
hid under the covers.
I hid behind my naivetée
and my platonic love for you.
It was the last time
I saw you
and I wonder.
Where are you?
2.
A transitory youth
in a transitory country
of trekkers
and migrant labourers
searching for a sense of belonging.
First severed from
our mothers
then severed from
a new country
born of struggles.
Now five generations
count for nothing
because our ancestors stole
from Khoi and Xhosa,
Zulu and Pondo,
Venda and Sesotho,
Bapedi too.
Here lies the Afrikaner soul
buried under shame,
no matter how we search
history laughs;
we stoned ourselves
with Swaziland special once,
reading poetry
amidst burning incense
in farmhouses built by
our Dutch ancestors.
3.
It's no good
you said
I'm ill
and I laid my life down
to save you.
You lived for a while
but it was
no good.
You were right.
Was I wrong to fight
death and its allies?
I tried to reach you,
steel doors shut me out;
I was only as close to you
as the smoke from your cigarette.
What a proud cock
struts with its red comb,
it owns the world
and we are spectators,
only spectators
sequestrated.
4.
I write this for you
if you ever ask after me.
5.
And Margaret sweet Margaret,
forever searching,
a gypsy,
finding no happiness,
unaware of your own strength.
Together we amputate
bits and pieces of our past,
it's good to move on
into silence.
I place the largest log on the fire,
pour more champagne
and smoke my
sixth cigarette.
The Bible lies unopened
and again my thumbs
to the past.
Ah!
Yes, the fire throws
an aura of Protea around me
in this rondawel existence.
I live in a house
shaped like infinity;
you can walk and walk
and never find the end,
a padded lion
in a cage
made by femininity.
A dress with a zip
up the front
but a bra that
catches at the back,
so that a man
can embrace you
and undress you
at the same time.
Oh hell Margaret
there is no greener grass.
END OF STORY


Obsession

by

Judith Miller


I counted all the minutes that you gave me love and pleasure
I mastered all the places of our laughter and our leisure
I collected all my perfumes in different shapes and sizes
And then I gave it up for indeterminate gifts and prizes

You left me in the company of today's familiar stranger
I gathered souls together not detecting any danger
Then you gave again a wizened sugar smile and wave
And I knew the battle started with the bottle and the grave

Kindly leave me to the loneness in the four walls of my room
Whisper one last sweet goodbye at the opening of my tomb
Pleased to meet you, nice to know you, now I'm reverently sane
Placing one step by the other in a fragmentary chain

It's over and you've gone - like a speeding bullet train
Just the whiff of musky odour from a body washed in vain
Trouble finds me, tears indifferent, turmoil and another day
In the fathomless existence of a comic one-act play

Chime the bells, call the muezzin, blow the shofar horn
It's tradition and it happens, it's the night before my dawn
Build the fire and place the cuttings in the centre of the flame
Hold up the leonine standard to the horror of my shame

Wrap the pretty presents - give the birthday girl a place
Who will hold my package in the pass the parcel race?
Who will miss the chair when the music stops to play?
Who can recognise my treasures when they're stored in jars of clay?

What mouldering sweetness do we find in the darkest side of man?
What gems of cunning are revealed, which calculated plan?
The sweet embrace, the plenty, and the siphoned energy --
This ends my diatribe, my search, my reverse elegy.


The Hen-House

by

Judith Miller

At two o’clock in the morning
With a cock-a-doodle-doo,
We’d woken all the neighbours
And likely master too!

By three o’clock in the morning,
We’d avoided the farmer’s gun -
‘Til a redheaded giant descended,
Feigning Attila the Hun:

It was then the oldest cock,
Made such a loud to-do,
Bare hands were used to
Strangle him - what a hullabaloo!

And now it’s seven-thirty -
Fresh grain is in the bin,
To thank the farmer’s wife
Let’s sing in unison!

She thinks we will be still ...
She’s through the hen-house door ...
Now scare her with a doodle-doo -
Loud on the count of four!

COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!


Pony-tailed Man

by

Judith Miller

There's a pony-tailed man
in the second-hand store,
Who's more rings on his face
than I've seen before.

He's a few in his ears,
and more through his nose,
Through his brows, and his lips -
are there bells on his toes?

The rings are shone silver,
and decorative too -
If he's sick and he sneezes,
what on earth does he do?

I fear him a little,
but he holds me in thrall -
For it's against my beliefs
to pierce my body at all!


Love and Abuse

by

Judith Miller

I saw two faithful lovers
walking hand in hand,
One was fat and ugly,
the other tall and grand.
I asked them both their names,
And this is what they said -
"I am Abuse" and "I am Love"
and "We've just got out of bed!"

I couldn't figure out these names,
I thought I heard them lie.
I followed them and from behind
they seemed a little shy.
I called again "What names have you?"
and this is what they said -
"I am Abuse" and "I am Love",
then they showed me wounds that bled.

It always comes as a great surprise
to watch these lovers woo.
In early days they seem complete
like lovers through and through.
Take a closer look and climb inside
each of these lovers' heads,
See "I am Abuse" and "I am Love"
embroidered in faded thread.


Karma Dina

by

Judith Miller

Your arms still around me
let no other in,
Now know I the strength
of: 'You're under my skin!'

*Like tendrils attaching
to my tender flesh,
With the power of memory
my soul you enmesh.

And winding a'through me -
Karma Dina's snake:
You strangle my spirit,
asleep, or awake.


Recollecting Grandpa

by

Judith Miller

"And so! And so! And so!", our
Grandpa used to call,
Each time we crossed his threshold
and raced along his hall.

Or he'd pick away quietly
at his stamp collection,
While we'd swarm around Gran
for her warmth and affection.

Or he'd cover the end of the bread
with some butter,
Before slicing it straight
with a very sharp cutter!

I recall his ghost body
laid out on their bed -
How I understood then what
it was to be dead.


Recollecting Small Granny

by

Judith Miller

"Small Granny" we called you -
you were far from tall,
But this wasn't the measure
of your heart at all.
You filled up your house
with some strange waifs and strays,
As you helped out those lost
in life's intricate maze.

They say you bounced back
like a big rubber ball,
When life came and threw you
against a rough wall.
And faithfully each week
for charity you'd stand,
Shaking that yellow square
box in your hand.

Perhaps we remember
your humour the most,
(In your generous deep cleavage
our pennies we'd post!)
For on your death-bed you'd still
time for a joke -
And here are the last words
I recall you spoke.

The lymphoma had made
your tummy distend,
"Perhaps I am pregnant!"
you said, in the end.
Now with nine healthy children
and seventy-two years
Was it the joke or your death
that reduced us to tears?


Recollecting Big Granny

by

Judith Miller

We smelled mothballs from your room
with its highly polished floor,
As we peeked into your sanctuary
behind your private door.

We noticed well-drawn curtains
with no light the whole day through,
Was this the way you stopped the wind,
from its daily talks with you?

Convinced you were a witch,
my heart went "Kaboom"
When your fancy-dress came
with a black hat and a broom.

This provided the proof
of your very worst side -
I admired you for thinking
you'd nothing to hide!

But Granny you still had the
best pair of legs,
And that noble proud look though
life threw you some dregs.

So "Thank You, Granny,
for cooking for me",
(Even though we laugh
at the odd recipe)

Those swimming green curries
and stew everyday
You impacted our lives
in a funny old way!


Plutonium Passenger

by

Judith Miller

Your payload on my rocket
took my pleasure into space,
but our complex interaction
blew it all up in my face.


Divorce

by

Judith Miller

Six strong men in a pantechnikon
came and stripped my life away -
now I am a babe newborn
no clothes no hair no teeth no pain

There's a large rectangular box
on the back of that amazing juggernaut -
it's travelling away into the distance
my life's packed in - good-bye, new start

They took a box of pots and pans
labelled it 'soul' and squashed my soul on top -
sealed and sealed it with wet brown tape,
covered it with blankets on the back of that truck

It's passed through many countries
shaken shifted lowered and raised -
and now it's passed into fathomlessness
depths of pasts, another tale untold

You'll never find it - dig it out
it's buried buried deep in snow
snow unmelted deep and thawless
It's gone it's gone I miss it so

Yes take my soul and send it driftless
cast it out not punished, thriftless
it's my soul it's light it's weightless
it's my soul it's void it's baseless

You took my soul out of its packet
you poked and prodded, what's this you said
who sends away their damaged merchandise
who sends away a part unmade?