Return to Mount Ayliff’s Childhood Home
Dust, like parchments of ancient skin
Covers the lopsided garden gate.
The familiar sidewalks
Now unfamiliar, etched in weeds and concrete cracks.
Yet the artifacts I remember my life by
I try rebuilding
Stone upon stone.
Rose garden, oak and maple trees
Climbing tough and twisted branches
A cat on the lawn.
The red polished sun porch
Head butting his reflection
In Bell-jangled mirror.
Spring with pink apple blossoms,
Wide faces of magnolias
And riding my bike that fences couldn't contain,
With legs like a Singer sewing machine
Stitching freedom into a wind
Calling my name.
Behind the chicken 'hok'
Miriam's khaya still stands,
The wooden floor gleams
As I drift through dreams
She taught me to count in Xhosa,
Sounds I no longer remember the feel of in my mouth,
To knit and plait and braid.
The swimming pool, now an empty mossy concrete pit,
The laps of freestyle and backstroke,
Swim to granny-wrinkled fingertips, sunburnt shoulders,
Chlorine red eyes and the smell of afternoon braais,
Dragonflies exude above the water
Sewing the last stitch of summer
To February's fallen Hem.
In a galaxy of surprise,
Stars circle a dependable dance
As autumn's fence separates
The redolence of buds and blooms.
An orange finger print blotted sun in the sky,
Shines anaemic rays on angry maple leaves of browning hues
Like a beauty path to guide me home,
And I rake the zigzag of fallen leaves,
Stacking in hessian garden bags.
The harsh cold of winter
Like a sluggish thief
Takes the heat piece by piece.
Stark bare branches, snow-laced fog
Winter's opalescent light,
Nostalgically evoke evening log fires
And home-made soup.
Unpicking this seasonal garment stitch by stitch,
I can't banish the rain,
The withered stalks of neglect,
Nor untangle the web of change
But as the worms know the grass will grow again,
I hold onto these memories
And the vivid wholeness of dreams.
hok: an enclosure made with poles and chicken mesh wire to keep fowls or birds
Khaya: a small humble room or hut where rural African tribal folk live
Xhosa: an African tribal language with many click sounds