A Poem from Cape Town in the Seventies

Maid and a girl on a bench in Johannesburg

Photograph: Peter Magubane

               The Maid

I come into your home barefoot
With calloused soles of uncouth shape
and tramp the carpets of your stairs
The glass of tiles, the tiles of glass
The perfect smoothness of your feet
The narrow white of birdlike bones

I rub the glow and wipe the white
And gather some imagined dust
And think of dust storms I have known
And other storms of bubbled mud
And babes who must remain on beds
And dust and wet that rise as one
Determined Upwards Undeterred
And swallow babies on the beds

And wind and wind and goddamned wind
That whines and curls through paper panes
And endless mould and endless rain
That cracks the mud that forms the pools
That drips and flows and won’t be blocked
And causes cries and rising heat
In young in old until the cold
Succeeds the heat and larger holes
Are hacked and hued with
Baked hard hands
and hardened hearts at backyard graves
do mark those graves with hardbaked stones

Perchance a sob
Perchance a tear
Wiped by a sleeve –
surreptitiously

These hands of stones that smooth the sheets
That labour for a silken life
Of genteel breeze, of cut glass rays  –
A rainbow painted in the sky
You are serene You do not know
my storms, my darkness, my desire
I smile your smile, I serve your tea
Whilst dark does surge twix’d you and me

          Maureen Mendelowitz

 

 

 


 

 

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