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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.


Blood Brothers

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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