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.