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Three Poems by Chris Ingham
I Touched Your Pain
I read your pain in the poems constructed
I heard your pain when you read your poetry
I saw your pain when they rejected you
I felt your pain when you cried in the gutter
I touched your pain when you gave me yourself
But I knew your spirit when you that day
Sat on the gallery floor, reciting
Your poem of love that was for me
I loved your soul when you were a dancer
Alone lost in your world of music
I envy your vulnerability
My dearest friend, lover, for you survive
The Child of Africa
Mine dusted red, opaque, the easting sun
Throws barbed bars of shadow on the child,
Like lines of longitude on an ancient
Cartographer's map of a world half known.
A morning child, he sits alone waiting
To feel the earth of Africa pulsate
Beneath his feet, dustily bare, planted
Firmly in the soil of his known world.
Slowly, as he knows it will, the earth shakes.
Fragile fingers gripping the wire tightly
As the earth's clayey dust tremors with life
That seems to pulse through his tiny body.
Sound, low, muffled, draws the child's eyes eastwards
Along the dry watercourse to the sun
Rising behind the beat, the swelling rhythm
Enticing him to Africa's dark heart.
A pillar of dust rising languidly
Upon the still Transvaal air draws the child
To the corner of his wire enclosure,
Eyes expectantly searching for the workmen.
They come at last, a black torrent rushing,
Past the child's hand reaching out through the wire,
Along the dry gully, to be consumed
By the mine's insatiable darkness.
Alone now in the heat rising stillness
The child sits behind his cage of barbed wire
Bars and digs with his plastic spade
Shallowly into the African earth.
Isolated in a dreary adult
Boarding house world, the child would sit watching
Ships in the tidy breakwater harbour
Below the hill, below the campanile
Which stood a sentinel to those long dead.
Blue Star liners, tramps, and the sleek weekly
Lavender hulled mail boats come from England
Now became the focal point of his world,
As he dreamed of the pirates and sailors
Who filled pages in his gaudy picture books.
Suddenly one day they took him away
To a dreary sulphur yellowed spa hotel
Far from the sea, where ancient Jewish ladies,
Unimpressed by a child's curiosity,
Reigned supreme in their quest for youth eternal.
For endless late summer days the child wandered
Where he would pore over his pop-up book
Of Peter Pan and hide from the black man.
Gardeners, with flattened noses, white teeth
Who moved silently, threateningly about
Some secret business beyond his ken
Known only to them and the Jewish ladies.
Were they the same as the swirling black men
Who had tided round him when he was lost
That day on a Port Elizabeth street.
A cicada chorus of clicks swarming
Round, incomprehensible to his ear.
Then one day sitting in the wood, idly
Contemplating Wendy and Tinkerbell,
He saw him there towering tall above.
"Do not be frightened of me Little Baas
I just want to know what it is you read"
Eyes averted, the child thrust his book out.
The black man opened the book preciously,
Ran his finger over the child's mother's
Copperplate and slowly read "Christopher
I am Kristof we are like blood brothers"
Everyday of the sun dappled autumn
Christopher would come to Kristof, his friend,
Telling of ships and pirates and the sea
While Kristof would wheel him around the lawn
In a wheelbarrow of dry grass cuttings.
On a rain slanting mid winter's morning
They took the child away. Far, far away.
In a new white rendered city block flat
The child would stare from his bedroom window
At other white rendered city block flats.
Then one day he heard beyond the doorknock
Kristof's voice asking for the Little Baas.
Hiding shyly behind his mother's skirt
He took the wood carved model mail boat
From the hand of his blood brother, Kristof.
The child heard his mother's English voice
"Thank you Kristof, but you mustn't come again
It is not allowed." The door closed firmly.
From his window he saw his blood brother,
Black against white concrete, dissolve from sight.
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