What stays behind
warm to touch—
labor as I gather the dent
by your brittle body
when I fold the pink dress
(the one you loved: did something for your skin),
clasp your hymnal,
unhook your wedding picture
how to pack
an entire life
into a faded suitcase,
without spilling tears on the content,
deciding, what stays behind
on wet sand
ocean’s breath inhale
embrace her restless pulse
slant eyes against
a rising sun
step wide—a jelly fish!
(a virgin beach) each morn’
along the debris-line
screech gulls, a cormorant
make manacles fall wide
Greetings and goodbyes
Departing years ago, set several situations
in motion, the price of which we’d pay
in equal installments, distributed,
over the remnants of a long outlandish life. Off
to foreign land we’d fled; separated by an ocean,
half a continent, a border, and some more—
and yet, the distance merely that, a
measurement: the hand that held the phone.
Landline was the cheapest. Each time, I marveled
at the cleverness of Alexander Bell, as I listened
to the tender timber in her voice, as if, standing seven steps
apart. Pappa also wants to speak to you, Mother
always said. As I waited, he’d shuffle closer, in
slippered swollen feet, his dancing days were over.
When are you coming back he’d croak,
hopeful, oh so hopeful, that the world he wished for,
would be like it was when we were little
and Studebakers, shining status symbols. Each
weekend I would call, and once a year, or
less, cross the sea by plane to say hello. Cramped intimately
with total strangers, shoulder touching shoulder,
sipping tepid tea, or sweetened sugar shakes
from ques’nable concentrates, a plastic taste that lingered.
Release a rental car, slip seamlessly from lane to lane,
to reach the senior’s sanctuary. Rewarded: raw emotions
rolling free, our tears, soon would mingle—
clasped her hollow hand, the puckered skin with solar spots.
Is there a way to measure love, or loss,
or longing; a life that could have been? When bursting
from her brimming eyes, her shaking voice, her
joy no match for mine. Father joined us seven seconds
later. The dozen days we had, we clutched with
care to our somber beating breasts. And that was that.
Professionals by now, of greetings and goodbyes.
Danie Botha was born in Zambia. It’s true that they could watch the hyenas at night from their hostel bedroom windows. He completed his school education and medical training in South Africa. Anesthesiology specialization followed later. He has called Canada home for the past 19 years. He blogs about positive aging, ethical medicine, and writing as healing. He writes short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry and contemporary and modern historical fiction. He has published two novels, a novella, and a short story. He draws, fools around with a camera, and is a fitness enthusiast.
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