Tin Roof

By KELWYN SOLE 

 

Autumn works away like a carpenter
dismantling the promises of spring—

our shelters brought so slowly down
it’s hard to recollect when each wall

fell, foretell when each corrupt plank
will crumble. Too lush a green

is the colour that warps away
from the grass to leave a yellow

dull as urine from a spiteful god,
but a reference we are used to.

To go on living, here, requires a house,
a cat, and an expectation at least

about a future where the eggs
can poach, the cat heave its body

with a thump through the small door
that human hands have sawn for it;

requires a house, preferably of stone,
squatting its grey toad weight on the land

and refusing to budge for anyone.

Such houses are no longer built.
All that remains is a sky
migrating birds fly up towards

like wrenched-out nails, a moon
that bristles with convulsions of cloud

too scrawny to bring more rain
—the dry centre of our hearts laid bare—

and stars dipping nearer to a horizon
over which they will soon loiter.

Cold batters on each face exposed
with all of its bleak hammers:

there’s just no way to smile left
but to keep squinting upwards like a fool

even as our doors unhinge, eyes
turn to mirrors of broken glass.

The only way to keep warm now
is to build a dwelling out of air,

draw invisible blankets to your chin;
painstakingly think your home around you.

Mine will have already open doors,
too many rooms in case of children—

I’ll call high windows into being
(to watch the sky plait a million blues),

add a family room for everyone
who may choose to be related.

I’ll put a tin roof on my dreams
for any young tom with stentorian boots

that’s silly enough for love. Even though
the cupboards open to only an echo

passers-by will stop amazed
that such a house can take a shape

—though never, I know, in envy.
There. Now I’ve no recourse but to live.

This is the house my hunger built:
the pain hides where you want it.

 

 

Kelwyn Sole is professor of English literature at the University of Cape Town and guest-editor for Issue 04. 

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Tin Roof

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