Snooze button

Let’s just
turn around one more time
hold me, lazily, as if
we didn’t have to
put sugar on their rice crispies,
insist that shoes are put on
the right foot,
pack school lunch and snack,
after cheerfully announcing
that a beautiful new day
has started.
Let’s just
spend a few more minutes
unwashed, unbrushed,
unlipsticked and unironed,
soft dozing animals
without purpose
in a cocoon
of bedsmells.

Success

When you jumped the first time
after those voices
just wouldn’t, just wouldn’t
leave you alone,
a helpful policeman
rescued you and then
explained how the electrified
third rail works and why
you didn’t succeed.

Your therapist shared
the high percentage of rebound
the slim chances you stand.
You balanced on that tight rope
for years, with the most charming smile,
your brain quick like a lizzard
flitting this way and that,
searching for what?

In your last email
you weren’t in the mood
to talk.
And I let it go,
let you go.
You succeeded
the second time round.

The other

Back at my kitchen table,
after a week of work in the Gambia
I think of the exotic aunt
who lives in the bush
far from everything she grew up with,
helping elephants or orphans,
visiting the family for Christmas,
bringing strange gifts, that smell
of smoke and the earth and the place
where humanity began.
Gifts made of beads and shells and
scrap metal and wild stories of
warthogs and cholera,
that leave the children open-mouthed in awe,
before she slips away again
into her life of a perpetual stranger,
expertly getting her old car stuck
and unstuck and stuck again
in dry riverbeds,
cooking delicious stone soup
and treating boils and bites
with soap, aspirin and hope.
As my kids and I check on my prolific
pepper plant and the hopeless tomato,
I gently touch the downy nape of their necks
and tenderly think of that aunt
I didn’t become

A long and winding love affair

The sharp flat bitterness
of lukewarm Nescafe,
that I don’t like
but still love
for the way it catapults me
to other muggy hotel rooms like this,
with weak AC working
overtime to little effect.
Don’t feed the monkeys
a sign reads
hidden behind the excessive greenery
of the hotel grounds.
Like a string of
brightly painted glass beads
made by hand
from ground up beer bottles
and cheap Chinese beads
of all colors.
Like this string, with beads
all same-same but different,
each new country I visit
on this continent,
I string them in my heart
on a thread of
lukewarm, sharp Nescafe.

Promise

I will not
heal you from your questions,
teach you to live
as if it wasn’t true
that we all must die,
even your mother and,
today or later, your own daughter.
No, I won’t pretend that
bad things happen only to bad people
or at least only because
they are part of some complex eternal plan
that will ensure that
in the end
all will be well.
And anyway, when is the end?

What I will do is
sit with you and the questions
with you and the dead baby
breathe with you, as the air
gets thin.
I promise, I won’t run away
just because I don’t know
what to say, just because
bad things happen
to all kinds of people.

Lets just sit,
as the rain washes the world
as the miracle is asking us
to open ourselves up to it.
Lets breathe in the suffering.
We may, with practice, learn
how to breathe out the light.

The perfect gift

“I’ll grow you a penis
from seeds,”
my son offers,
to right the unbearable wrong
that has come into focus
through train toilets,
camp site toilets,
one Euro promenade automatic ones:
The people he loves
should not be deprived
of the fire-hose joy
and pragmatic pride
of stand-up pipe.