Barbie and the Thing That Came from the Sea

In the cool glow of dawn
after the ball,
Barbie went to the beach
to wave bye-bye to Ken.
She should have had eyes
on the yachts out at sea,
and wondering
which one
he was upon
- but the morning came
cold, ugly and windy
and Barbie slept in.
So it didn’t happen that way.

later and instead
and just to be true,
she did don her gown again
and went on down to the raggedy shore
in the steely grey light of the storm,
with the sun’s last bit still peeping
through a slit between clouds
and horizon.
She stared out at the tempestuous sea,
and for a moment

felt worried for him.

That’s when she met the
Thing From The Sea.

This Thing
it appeared and stood in her way,
rusted, encrusted
and dripping with sweat
(the sweat of the world, she once
called the sea, tasing it once
when she was just three)

This Thing
came out of the waves at her feet,
while Ken sailed on over them
- far away at the head of the fleet.

The Thing it said slowly
in an unlikely voice
(not rusted encrusted,
but sort of young-ish and fun-ish)
when it saw that her hair,
and make-up as well
was out of this time
and da da de swell:

“I’m a Sixties Thing, I thought you should know.
This is what we did in
the old picture shows
- us Things, we were always
lurching out from the Swamp,
the Primeval Ooze, or wherever it was
that would go to point out
that fear that is latent
that fear that lies there
still lurking, close under the surface
of the most....triumphant of nations.

“Know what you mean,”
I heard Barbie say,
“I’m a hand-me-down model from
mother to daughter, but I know it
too well, recognise it today.”

I left them there still talking
in the salt spray and mist

He, alone,
rusted, encrusted and dripping
with sweat.

She, glorious and glittering
(and forgotten about Ken)
the world’s wealthiest woman,
thin as a pen.

I’ve seen her around since.

Him, never again.

People run off

                the weathervane said

People tend to get lost in land
                and run off
to find themselves at sea -

like rivers must run
and ultimately mingle,
so it is with people too.

People tend to get lost in land
find themselves at sea.

So that is why it is
I have painted myself
with the legend ‘TO THE SEA’
- unlike my unspeaking next-door friend -
and whichever way the wind might be,
                    I’ve noticed
have tended not to disagree.

Sex & the single sock

It must be a wild place
there where single socks go:
all-night parties, sex and mayhem
and guilt obliterated by early morningunconciousness,
while we stay-at-home
                            single socks alone
search numbly
through washing piles
for missing partners.

Partners gone AWOL!
Partners on adventures!
Partners living the life, on the edge!
Partners out there!

Sex and the single sock -
chapters to fill
the magazines of life beyond
the fringes of our everyday:
read by forks and spoons
and cans o' beans
and mixed-up miscellaneous
                                               single socks
stuck in the mud at home.

But, them, out there!
Romance of the unknown!
Romance of the unattainable!
Romance of the glitterati!

                                          - single socks
rich, sexy, single socks
on the loose
dancing with bent forks
once tarnished, now loved and radiant,
caressed by fulsome ripe-red lips,
glittering brightly, replete
with fame and fulfilment
                            and cans of old beans you once thought
and now mega-millionaires.

Single socks on the tabloid pages
living a life unreal, unreachable;
single socks exiting through imposing, mock-heroic Hollywood
portals -
architects’ dreams;

Single socks stepping out into the
fizz-flash-glare-pop of thousands of
instantaneous blue light flashes
(the paparazzi ambush - oh,
How they love it!
How they live for this!)

While at home, I,
                            single sock
left and


through piles of washing
with a peasant-bent back.
And come up with?

We leave, Forever leaving

As lonely floating figures
we make our way into the night
In time we’ll get to speak about
the necessary venues
where we might
speak again.

We leave,
Forever leaving
What will stay behind -

We broke the legs of the dogs
that used to keep us warm,
moving on,
we must leave
and search
for other homes
                and others of our kind.

We leave,
Forever leaving,
Dogs/we/new will find,

Speaking of the necessary moves
and necessary shoes,
where lives/we/knew
we’ll find.

We leave,
Forever leaving,
Leaving necessary behind.

RD somewhere

Come live with me and be my love
upon my old
inherited farm.

And I will offer

TV and bleary eyes
and rugby in the
wee small hours

while mist and moon
and owls

I’ll know what nights
we might see
full moon
in faintly tinted
shades of silver.

Come live with me and be my love
upon this fecund patch of soil

And there will be dawns of cold blue light
days of mud
evenings softly sliced
with shafts of golden green


corded, crumpled hills

and sometimes,
heavy dew

Come live with me and be my love
in the house that I will build for you

and there will be
rust and junk
and old machines

and sky
and rain
and kids
and love.

Strange things happen in an ordinary day

 A scruffy little sparrow
fussed about my feet,
while a burst of anti-matter
came on heading straight for me.

The ghost in the machine
almost breathed its last,
and then it
heaved a ragged kind of sigh,

wearily, resignedly
“Now, at last
you can see
that I am truly free.”

“Island fine, island fine,”
she says
“moments and extinction
are one and the same.”

This thing called
the rhythm of the myth -
it seems to go like this:
               Read to me
                write to me,
                 we’ll set tomorrow back,
                   retreating into folds
                     of reminiscences.

Creatures that fly in and out of lights
on lonely dusty midnight roads -
brief flares of whiteness
come to disrupt the flow -

(“Island fine, island fine,” she says)

Cars urge onwards,
                  scrunching at the gravel
Planes fly forwards,
                  tearing at the sky
and time it sort of circles
circumnavigating you and I.

Read to me,
  write to me,
    we’ll set tomorrow back
      ... and then we’ll count to four.

And have you noticed how
there are always
planes in the background,
going, going somewhere
                - scratches in the sky –

(Read to me,
  write to me,
     we could just call it play)
with a faraway muted rumbling
kind of roar?

And people, always,
          always people,
                 people on their way.

Island Fine

In blessed innocence
              and crafted ignorance
we live within our shores –
safe from all ‘cept flotsam and jetsam,
             moulded plastic pink.

And all the while they come

And all the while the sea just smiles,
Says “How do you like my fit?
          The way I seem to sit
          So neatly round your shores?”
(Island fine, island fine, you say)

And meanwhile,
           the great tree by my window,
           it roars back at the wind:
           “How dare you shake me so?
            I’ve been here a thousand years,
            You’ll be gone tomorrow!”

Turn over, back to sleep, soak up this pesky gale
In innocence,
            crafted laughter,
            this house was built with nails…
Safe from all, ‘cept flotsam and jetsam,
            moulded plastic pink.

Saying Goodbye

In the hot blustery
katabatic wind – past midnight –
with a fingernail moon
sailing in the sky
(scraps of clouds sliding away underneath it)

I left the boat, and walked the narrow beach, steep,
under the great blue grey
Hottentots Holland Mountains
with the nun I’d just met
(years later, the kids in the movie
          would find a phrase for it:
          a nunswept beach)

She was saying goodbye to the coast,
transferred to the thirstland Karoo,
and didn’t mind, it seemed,
someone to talk to.

And the whitecaps marching luminously
in the thick blue light,
the sand stinging my legs,
her dress flapping manically in the night
– a sound muted by those all around it.

She said softly that although this was
her favourite spot, she had
come to terms with leaving.
There’s always something bigger than you,
she said serenely, someone to obey.

Different folks: half drunk, I quizzed her
          half gently
and our conversation stretched out to an hour
by violent breaths of the hot roaring wind,
and black-rag-scraps of shadow racing out across
the sand to join the madcap march of the sea
          away from us.

Different folks: she stood so still in the soft shallow lap
of the surge that her feet eroded into the sand,
          buried to her ankles
while I – impatient I – walked
          and talked
in circles around her, making restless
little patterns with my toes.

We spoke about how the wind would be different over there
the air itself be different
the dust, and the texture of the night;
and she said yes, but it was of course part of the something bigger that bound the all of us
          – us, the little moving parts.

What about Love? I asked
when we got onto that
and she said that was exactly what
she loved.

Different folks: in the buffeting
hot and swirling wind, the moon gone
and now nearly dawn we walked to the breakwater,
paused while she put her sandals on,
and said goodbye
with a handshake that was really just a touch of fingertips –

She went back to her packing
          (There’s not much she said,
                   just two suitcases
not much for the rest of your life

and I dropped down lightly to the deck,
crawled past the diesel to my sticky little bunk
knowing we’d be going in the morning,
          and also,

that the wind would be gone by then, too.

Hardest, happiest

To set all shimmering
this luminous load:

to pitch and pull
at vagaries
and vice

to lift and float
as millstones won’t

living, ardent-hearted, living
hardest, happiest
and hardest, and happiest

yet always
someone other,
making, faking,
lists of ridiculous things

I - we - paddle on,
            paddle on
and love it laughs like yesterday.


A bus called Democracy passed us
          and no,
this is not a metaphor.

Barreled past, rocked us in its turbulent wake
– that’s the trouble with riding at the
speed limit,
on otherwise limitless vlaktes.

Even busses weighed with
the stuff a bus would not normally carry,
and everything a bus normally does, even those busses pass you.

And give you one of those little skriks,
just good to keep you awake,
keep your heart exercised,
and walk little scribbles in the sweat on your skin.

And your kids sigh, and shift uncomfortably.
One spots a jackal, far-off, and remembers to tell us about it later.

A big white bus it was, with dark tinted windows,
and rainbow signwriting
on the back;
and no,
this is not more metaphor.

Perhaps I had dozed off, almost,
in the memory of mountains
weeks’ – no months’ – trek away
and two hot hours in the car.

It was waiting for us
– no not waiting –
just there before us,
at the see-through town fetched up in the crisp shadow
of mountains,

mountains we imagined
mountains we knew from a map
mountains we’d never see again.

And it was grinning
– no, not the bus –
the people spilling from it, and the rainbow sign was the same on the front, only with
the colours reversed.

One of them gave us directions.
And I swear the bus smiled
– or maybe it was the person –
but it did sigh in the way big weary busses do.


And no, this is not…
                                 hell, by now you must know how this goes.

No chapters, agreed

(Can you remember)
              the names of the clouds?
              How long and light
              and lovely at once?


No chapters, he said;
no chapters, agreed.

Alto cirrus appear today
as a wish
and leave – no persist
depending on you.

No chapters you go
and sit there instead
in the belly
of a great shining beast.

(And couldn’t recall)
              the names of the clouds –
              long and light
              and lovely at once.

A footpath remembered

It’s a pattern out of time
I’m told: a continuum
that’s been cut

(at 30,000 feet over the South Java Sea;
Bali - Darwin - Equator - Singapore)

and a hard-cool-earth footpath
as smooth as the palm of your hand,
under my hand -
pat down by the feet of...

I see it right now
a clearer-than-airline-white wine-skyshop vision
sort of grey, says me, five-year-old master of words
sort of colourless, says me now, remembering.

[Ping! Seatbelt sign]

No colour
                like water reflecting a sky the colour of sweat
                (no colour, no sky)
No colour
                like topsoil grown old, grown tired, and gone off to bed
No colour
                like old movie dreams

sort of grey, with cracks; no grass
pat down by the feet of ...

and a meandering
    [“More tea, anyone?”]
                              meandering route,

like a lurch that’s enshrined, and
repeated by rote
                              from a house to a house
               and a sky full of stars
(have some stars extincted themselves
since the nights of my youth?)
Pat down by the feet of...

these people I remember in smells and
in sounds (what happened to names?)

Take me far back
find the space in the time
to center the wheel
to strings that will stand
to tie down the mind
                    of this man
                           and a boy

[“Our flight path will take us-”]

to a footpath that calls us

Pat down by the feet of

                                        generations before us.

Shoreline of Shipwrecks

 My friend has a map
of a shoreline of shipwrecks
- a place where there are plenty.

Neat little icons,
the heavenward bows
of broken ships
above the waves.

You can almost hear the men lined up,
bravely singing “God Save the Queen”
as women and children take to the boats;
the creak and crash of timber;
the awful screams of twisted metal;
the thunder of the surf
on that

Yes, sure
I had an ancestor
who foundered once
on a bar
on a wild coast
that he’d become famous for crossing and
till then,
till then.

So whenever I visit
I look at the map,
and memorise a name or two,
and wonder which
little shipwreck
little shipwreck
on this new
is me.