A Reading for a South African Woman

The ship will sail soon. Six months I’ve waited
on the banks for this passage, with wire in the blood
an itch to leave, which increased as I slept
and hair fell like graffiti on my pillow.
 
I’ve been away from my native land
far too long. Rain and wind of an English Spring
doesn’t matter now. I won’t look back, as a coil
slips its greasy knot, free from its moorings.
 
My life has been an epic concerto,
alternating between the pluck of harp,
the drum of heart beat—fast and slow,
and the staccato of the mother tongue.
 
I’m not going to use the word privilege
to sum up a life of joy, suffused with ebb and flow.
Each of us are born, to live, to love, to fight
until a shell becomes sun-bleached and empty.
 
It’s far better we express what is to be human,
without platitudes or candied sentiment.
Only true compassion heals bigotry’s barb
and appeases the wash of surf on bone shadows.
 
Now if you excuse me, I have a ship to board,
captained by a master oarsman. He’s old and grumpy.
But then, so would I be if I worked day and night,
and passengers forget to pack a flask of tea.
 

And as I leave, for the white heat of Africa
wave me off, if you must, but don’t weep.
The years coloured with your love are all I need,
to pay the ferryman. I won’t look back.

In memory of Brenda Roulston, April 2015.

In memory of Brenda Roulston, April 2015.

 ©Talia Hardy 2015

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