Monday, January 5, 2009

Carnival City, Brakpan, South Africa

Waiters in plaid shirts and cowboy hats
take our orders for hamburgers, ketchup, French fries.
At the fish restaurant there’s a queue
twenty minutes deep.
Lights flash, girls dance on the counter of the bar,
faces bared in lascivious grins. Midriffs bare.
A man gyrates on the counter,
a Stetson on his head.
Machines roll through the possibility of numbers,
apples and oranges flash among the digits.
In the smoking zone I watch, glass protected as
gamblers suck urgently on their cigarettes,
desperately clinging to something.
Tapping ash with one hand, eyes mesmerised,
focused on the flashing racing numbers.
A man in sneakers and combed-over hair stands,
bigger than the machines,
dominator of his destiny.
In two weeks time a group I’ve never heard of will
sing Afrikaans songs in the theatre.
And after that, a famous American comedian
will hold the stage.
In the sweet shop I look for liquorice All-sorts
and buy a can of Coke.
Eleven at night, there are more people coming in
than going out.
Electric heaters line the walls outside,
heating up nothing in the chill night.
I remark on this as we turn to look back,
candy-coloured turrets brighten up the black sky,
a candy floss wonderland,
we could be Anywhere, USA.

Published in New Coin 44, number 2, December 2008

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