Please join us as we welcome newcomers to our pages, Cassie Pruyn and Henk Rossouw, and welcome back contributor Kevin O’Connor.
Closeted in Dutchess County
Back then she drove a car
red as a dragon.
We bombed along the back roads to Rhinebeck,
my fingers at her crotch.
She took me out to see the birch-skirted
lake Joni Mitchell sings about.
We’d gallivant around Woodstock
sipping hard cider from the farmer’s market,
sit kissing on the overlook at sunset,
cruise the Taconic with the windows wide.
Once, at the edge of a field near campus,
I glimpsed a flash of white.
I made Lena pull over, dashed across
to where the vine-tangled forest began.
Lodged in the trunk of a larch, hunched
in the hollow, radiant
beneath leaf muck and rain stains,
a statue of a woman.
In the distance, a car horn called;
the wind whispered shuhh-shuhh
through the branch-stitched dome.
A pine needle floated down and caught
in a fold of her robes.
If she was a saint, I didn’t know her.
Cassie Pruyn is a New Orleans-based writer born and raised in Portland, Maine. Her poems and reviews have appeared in AGNI Online, The Normal School, 32 Poems, The Los Angeles Review, Poet Lore, The Adroit Journal and others.
Her poems and reviews have appeared in AGNI Online, The Normal School, 32 Poems, The Los Angeles Review, Poet Lore, The Adroit Journal and others.
HENK ROSSOUW, from Camissa: Rearrival
The loops of telephone wire on creosote poles
sine waves—the arcade
flight pattern of the city
starlings. Red-winged, shadow-bodied, the birds
cloud the stone courtyard of the Slave Lodge,
and parking garages, and eaves. This is
civil twilight. I have been absent for seven years.
collective noun for the cloudburst of starlings in the early winter sky,
my brother says. Other starlings on the telephone wires line the foothill streets of Walmer Estate. Our roadside perception of the houses and warehouses and lots, sloping toward the harbor below, has been anchored momentarily among
the crowd on the footbridge,
once segregated (BLANK-
ES/NIE-BLANKES) with legislative
sheet metal, and now
a suspended desire line
above Rohlilala Boulevard —renamed for the president
on the island often
visible from here.
The tarmac with his name contours against the table-shaped mountain as it bisects the city.
Cape Town, the city in the brochure, little more than
‘a summer dress, all air, colour and light, cast off onto’
the indigenous peninsula—like a beautiful wet bag over the mouth of.
Hoerikwaggo means, in the ex-language, mountain in the sea.
The Standard Bank sign on the foreshore
—cement land reclaimed from the sea and the descendants of slaves, who had launched slender fishing boats there, from the shoreline now buried under rubble—
flickers on blue against the close of day.
Camissa, the city at nightfall double-lit,
by the artificial and the fleeting.
Electric sunset. The early
sodium-vapor street lamps echo the burnt orange.
Domestic servants leaving Walmer Estate
cross the footbridge
in their nightly katabasis downhill,
Shoprite bags in hand or balanced
on their heads—wages tithed to get
to Lavender Hill, Mitchell’s Plain, Lost City, Khayelitsha, Langa, Gugulethu
outside the city gates—
as the touts in the white
echo the muezzin:
Vredehoek, Vredehoek, Vred’hoek, W-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-lmer.
From the bridge, my brother and I look at the city
in silence. Daylight has not yet left
the avocado-green facade
of Ghazala Food & Kaffie
on the corner, the corner of, and day-glo
vies with the flourescent-lit shelves—
soap matches pilchards,
stacked behind Mr. Ahmed, the shopkeeper in the doorway, marking time until
the tidal hiss of the 102 bus. Some cross the city for his cumin samosas.
On the roads below,
Melbourne and Roodebloem,
the stoeps on either side
You must be hungry, my brother says. I have aged
He lives near the abutment
of the bridge, starlings in his attic,
and the dock cranes, new since
democracy, frame the sea as if
to lower the sun, a starboard-red
container, beyond the coastal shelf.
The shipping line of sunlight leaving for—
the city ‘begin
and begin again’—
I recur in the city song-lit
in the tidal city
outpost and ulcer—
now a landscape, now a room
now the Cape, now Camissa
‘place of sweet waters’ plural
for the sake of its springs
incipient on the mountainside
artesian and running
under the city asleep
separate as the sleep of another
If one were scattered at the end from a cardboard urn
after the flood, with a view of the sward descending
to the bights and the coves, the sea-bitten coast,
one was born far from, one’s beginning
forgotten— a handful of South African ash—
even the ash would echo names of water,
immigrant water: The Whaleback Ledge lighthouse
across the Piscataqua, whose origins beyond
the harbor and the tidal mouth split into Salmon Falls
and the Cocheco, ‘rapid foaming water,’ fed by the Ela,
the Mad, and the Isinglass— rivers striated
by glacial ice and rising from the Nubble and the Coldrain,
ponds, replacements? For Camissa, place of
Originally from Cape Town, Henk Rossouw now lives in Houston, where he serves as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast.
I refuse to move the vase you molded and baked in the kiln
as a gift and which now rests in the middle of my dining table;
not because it is beautiful—it is—or because the beauty was accidental,
a result from leaving the pot in too long after glazing so that the colors
blended together, leaving a burnished hue of bruised maroon-blue,
impossible to plan for or duplicate, beyond what you knew;
nor because it evokes any specific memory, some voice or touch—
for the cooling off, then ice and silence, effaced every sentiment.
Neither is it like keeping an urn of ashes where I eat,
since the vase is empty of ash or any flowered story.
No, I just like the way it stands alone, holds its mystery
beyond explanation or complaint, finished and incomplete.
Passing by sometimes, I wonder at its making: I want
the form of burnished color and frozen molding to keep me
for just a moment, teasing me into and out of thought
as does the present that remains after the work is done.
Memory of My Father in Indiana with Basketball
We mocked my father’s crouched two-hand set shot
whenever his nostalgic shtick broke up our driveway play.
He would fondle the ball like some lost erotic fetish—
work tie and coat still on— and name the game,
“Jeffersonville, ‘33” before awkward shot
caromed off the rim and add, “We lost.”
Funny how memory’s matrix is physical, carried
by synapse to stored neurons, deepened by repetition,
like shooting a ball or this scene’s ritual
variations over the years. It was easy then
to be Icarus flying beyond the rude invention
of my father’s first generation game,
weighed down in gravity’s maze, imagination
cut short by fears of depression and war.
They ran careful patterns, passing patiently
to teammates as if the ball were a baby or bomb,
better to hold or stall out the clock
than risk hurtling loved ones to hell.
Later he watched from the stands wanting
his past redone as my present,
when I would pump-fake off the cross dribble
and juke air-born jump-shots practiced
until spontaneous habit, improvisations
set free by baby boom rock and the pill.
But we lost too: sons disappointing fathers,
fathers sons, is itself a ritual scene,
the historical script we reinvent and play off
for memories we feed on the rest of our lives.
Having played became the common thread, the afterlife
of action we wove like the intimate lore of initiates.
Watching high school tournament games on all-day tickets,
we learned to speak as punctuation and witness.
“That was nice” after skillful shot or pass,
“No way” after a referee’s mistake—
or sometimes just a wordless smile
when we perceived a subtle move at the same time.
Now feeling the grooved and roughened surface of the ball,
I resist the pull into the shadowed world of loss,
let the past, accrued in the cocked arm of reflex,
surge forward through my fingertips, ready to release
and enlarge my self beyond the moment
in a shot which cannot be savored fully
until we nod in the agreement of memory,
the unspoken love of some future present.
Kevin O’Connor is an editor of One on a Side: An Evening with Seamus Heaney and Robert Frost, and his poems and reviews have appeared in The Notre Dame Review, The Harvard Review Online, and other publications.