“The injuries of houses have always been bandaged by children’s laughter” by Stephen Symons

A place of years within days,
of shotguns held over
dreaming children with curled fingers
or against the spines of wives in satin slips.
There’s the piety of revolvers
in bedside drawers, oiled and within
a fright’s reach, a finger’s length
from a gold leaf bible
and some loose change.

On some nights the wind invites
the far-off tides of traffic into their homes,
to remind them life flows elsewhere.
Their houses bare their wounds
reluctantly. Corrugated roofs
wear a yearlong stillness.
Birds praise the neighbourhood,
indifferent to its afflictions.
The divine geometry of
the church spire remains.
The arms of the cross
now belong to the owl.

Everywhere
rust-coloured stains
rise up over bricks and concrete
like the histories of a country’s
haemorrhaging,
a blood flow cheating gravity,
even conscience.

The injuries of houses
have always been bandaged
by children’s laughter,
or coughing labour
of lawn mowers
trimming away the fear
of one final bloodletting.

Unwatched TVs,
flashing blued prophesies
over dimpled walls, curtains
and maroon blazered school portraits.
A photo of a boy in a brown uniform
skims a mahogany server.

The weekend taste of cut grass
and hint of Sunday gravy
pours like gossip into the working week,
whispering names like­—
Smith, Visagie or Du Plessis.
Somewhere a rugby commentary
has been playing for days,
but it could be an argument.

Something is lodged between the teeth,
tempting and twisting the tongue to set it free.
The streets are empty, bins at the ready,
heavied by black bags,
pear-shaped and knotted
with the secrets of fathers and sons
and their far-off wars.

In a place like this,
in a country like this,
there can never be enough ammunition.


Stephen Symons lives in Cape Town, where he works as a graphic designer. His writing has been published in journals, magazines and various anthologies throughout South Africa. His unpublished collection, Spioenkop was listed as a semi-finalist for the Hudson Prize for Poetry (US) in 2015. More recently, a selection of his poems have been selected for a special edition of Re-Markings, a refereed international bi-annual journal of English. He holds a masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town and is currently working on a PhD in African Studies. His poetry collection, Questions for the Sea (published by uHlanga Poetry Press), was launched in June 2016.

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