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Sunday Times Books LIVE

John Eppel

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Three New Poems

April in Bulawayo

April is the coolest month breeding tooth-

picks out of the drying soil.  Pearly love

grass works a treat.  Odour of khaki weed

mingles, in the early chilly mornings,

with lantana, wood smoke, and smouldering

batteries.  The fruit of Lobengula’s

indaba tree is about to ripen.


Yellow flowers now give way to the red:

aloe arborescence, poinsettia,

the potted bougainvillea that Joe

tried to bonsai.  Nights are getting nippy,

time for an extra blanket, and bed socks,

but – O – the lightly toasted afternoons –

listen to that boubou shrike – are perfect.




Potato Bush

Boiled potatoes in their jackets is what

I think I smell.  Mom is in the kitchen,

cowboy book with a cracked spine in one hand,

testing fork in the other; cigarette –

Springbok – between her lips.  ‘What’s for supper,

Mom?’  ‘S and S,’ she says, narrowing her

eyes to avoid the smoke.  S and S – a

code we children could not crack, though we sensed

it meant ‘whatever’.


But I am wandering down a river bed

dry as wrinkles, a month before the rains;

a bed of carapaces and driftwood,

a long season from my mother’s kitchen;

and it’s evening, and I know it now:

aartappelbos.  It came to me once at

Punda Maria, once at Colleen Bawn,

once at West Nicholson.  And I linger,

briefly overcome.





Nature is an impressionist in my

part of town, especially now when light

choked with dust and pollen and garbage smoke

permeates cry after cry of lost bush

birds. Vesper bats stroke the palpitating

moon about to run is yolk, while crickets,

rain frogs, tune up for the Bulawayo

proms. It’s all sepia, tobacco, burnt

orange, sienna… restless is the word,

September restlessness; New Year babies

pushed from Virgo’s knock-kneed thighs.  Starry thighs

purpler than priests, than stains of inky wine.

Starry, starry impressionistic night –

take me to your bosom and hold me tight.









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