Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On the way to work

On the way to work
I see a dead dog lying on the pavement,
one leg lifted in rigor mortis,
a meaty chunk of shoulder flesh exposed.
There are woven baskets for sale
on the opposite side of the road, and round barstools.
The sun burns my driving arm crisp brown.
A desperate woman sells wooden bowls,
comes up to my window. I flick my
eyes away behind mascara-flecked
sunglasses. Her mouth drops a little.
There are men selling bags of avocados
and boxes of green grapes. I say no.

Driving to work I detour
through poverty.
The houses are small, shabby, paint peels
and fades away. Walls are not high,
and many are crumbling. People sit
in their yards and watch rerouted
traffic bump through the neighbourhood,
observing the unusual event as if it were a parade.
The shops are hot, dark holes. The children amuse
each other by buying sweets, walking,
playing in the streets.
It’s a different world here,
a world I’ve been warned against.

Driving home, one night, a dog leaps
into the dark road. I swerve to avoid its black
jumping shape. It’s limping, sick,
frightened or confused.
A group of men stand nearby, laughing
loudly, clustered in groups by their cars.
I put my foot hard on the pedal,
the dog disappears, defeated,
limping back into the darkness.

(Published in From Joburg to Jozi, Penguin)

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