Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

The Elephant is Unhappy & You wake softly

Enlarge poem

THE ELEPHANT IS UNHAPPY
The ground is squelchy underfoot.
The elephant is unhappy.
The grass sparse, wet.
A dog is chained to a table.
“I am on guard,” is the sign
around a caravan.
At the next caravan, a woman
holding a cigarette retreats
to its shuttered interior.
The chained dog finds shelter
beneath the camping table,
its tail between its legs.

In the field by the main road
the elephants have attracted onlookers.
A mother holds her child.
The elephants are still, silent.
An elephant blows dust onto herself,
burrowing a hole into the ground
as she sucks up dust, blows it,
uses her trunk to enlarge a hole at her feet.

Her hide is wrinkled grey.
Beyond her cars stream along the wide,
sun-bleached road.
She is tethered by foot,
held by a stake in the ground.
Men sort hay and grass.
The elephant moves, her ears flap,
her trunk grasps into the air,
she sways, the chain stretches, just
before she reaches the end of the chain’s pull,
she stops, sways, knows she can’t go any further.
Her trunk reaches out again.
Her big body sways slightly,
a foot moves forward. The elephant is unhappy.

Silently, we walk away. The ground is
squelchy underfoot, and the caravans
are inscrutable: you can’t see through
their small lace-covered windows.

YOU WAKE SOFTLY
You wake softly, against me,
a soft sigh escapes from you
as you welcome in a day,
and a smile accents your lips.
I kiss the parenthesis around your mouth.
‘No botox,’ you ask, playfully,
as I carry on touching your years.
It’s a kissing game, you smile, you’ve figured it out:
who can get the last kiss in?

Later, I let you run your finger
along the scars on my breasts.
Are you shy?
The day’s light is like a mirror.

Later, you will say, I like exploring your body with my hands.
Later, I will watch as you rise out of bed,
it’s afternoon now,
your breasts small, still cupped by time,
softly, gently,
seeing you glide back into your clothes.

Arja Salafranca

Featured Poem:

Scars & Your Face

Enlarge poem

SCARS
The round red one on the leg
comes from an infected insect bite,
and reminds you of a weekend away in KwaZulu Natal.
The pockmark on your forehead
was from chicken pox at twenty-one.
The indent at the top of your nose:
childhood acne.

You remember holding a mirror in the bath, aged five,
Too young then to realise it might slip, which it did, that night,
cutting into your knee.
Too young then, to know about the scars of the flesh, markers of a life,
signposts along the way.
Visual memories of what’s happened when,
individual as fingerprints,
yet more arbitrary and irregular.

They surround us, these markings, on others too, friends,
family, those we have loved.
We remember a cut on a thumb, where a tendon hung by a thin filigree.
Or, the scar of the root of a tooth ripped out,
the thin gunmetal lining around the capped tooth,
when our loved one smiles, reminding us daily of a root ripped away.
The mottled patches of brown that scatter a boyfriend’s back
tell of childhood eczema.
The cigarette burn fades,
but the child remembers the startled look on her mother’s face
as the cigarette was dropped accidentally.
Or, can you count this, the grey on the crown of the head,
sprouting forth? Another scar perhaps,
another reminder of time’s stealthy breath.

YOUR FACE
The face changes,
is changing, mercurial.
Trying to hold onto it
leaves you chasing images
that fade as they appear.
The night you held the blanket over your face
like a veil,
you were someone else then,
head tilted coquettish.
Or the days worry etched itself clean
across your features,
and I could only watch.

One day you throw your head against
the wind, and it etches your hair across your profile,
and I too carry that in my head.
(but most aren’t like that of course)

You laugh, exposing teeth
and I want to catch your laughter like music.
Another moment that tinkles past,
rippling through me.
There are times I see your mother in your face,
and your brother, the line of family that runs through us all.
And there are times when your eyes are closed to me,
and that’s all part of it.
And then also the softness of making love,
your eyes soft, misted, close to mine,
your face softened by the moment.

This is a hard poem to write.
In trying to capture you, your face,
define you by the mercurial moods of a day,
I’m left with images. The word is so hard, (word is hard?)
and yet the memory of images,
so soft, delicate.
I’m wishing there were other words,
another way to say it.

Scars & Your Face by Arja Salafranca

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (2)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

  1. Hello, your poems are so great. Am too a poet,a young upcoming poet actually. I come from Kenya. I am just 18 and wrote about 35 poems but lack a hand in support as i look forward to launch an anthology.

    issa

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

Arja Salafranca has published two collections of poetry, A Life Stripped of Illusions and The Fire in which we Burn; a third, Beyond Touch is published by Modjaji Books in 2015 and a collection of short stories: The Thin Line. She has participated in writers conferences, edited two anthologies and has received awards for her writing. More at: http://arjasalafranca.blogspot.com

Arja Salafranca

Biography

Arja Salafranca has published two collections of poetry, A Life Stripped of Illusions and The Fire in which we Burn; a third, Beyond Touch is published by Modjaji Books in 2015 and a collection of short stories: The Thin Line. She has participated in writers conferences, edited two anthologies and has received awards for her writing. More at: http://arjasalafranca.blogspot.com

The Elephant is Unhappy & You wake softly

Enlarge poem

THE ELEPHANT IS UNHAPPY
The ground is squelchy underfoot.
The elephant is unhappy.
The grass sparse, wet.
A dog is chained to a table.
“I am on guard,” is the sign
around a caravan.
At the next caravan, a woman
holding a cigarette retreats
to its shuttered interior.
The chained dog finds shelter
beneath the camping table,
its tail between its legs.

In the field by the main road
the elephants have attracted onlookers.
A mother holds her child.
The elephants are still, silent.
An elephant blows dust onto herself,
burrowing a hole into the ground
as she sucks up dust, blows it,
uses her trunk to enlarge a hole at her feet.

Her hide is wrinkled grey.
Beyond her cars stream along the wide,
sun-bleached road.
She is tethered by foot,
held by a stake in the ground.
Men sort hay and grass.
The elephant moves, her ears flap,
her trunk grasps into the air,
she sways, the chain stretches, just
before she reaches the end of the chain’s pull,
she stops, sways, knows she can’t go any further.
Her trunk reaches out again.
Her big body sways slightly,
a foot moves forward. The elephant is unhappy.

Silently, we walk away. The ground is
squelchy underfoot, and the caravans
are inscrutable: you can’t see through
their small lace-covered windows.

YOU WAKE SOFTLY
You wake softly, against me,
a soft sigh escapes from you
as you welcome in a day,
and a smile accents your lips.
I kiss the parenthesis around your mouth.
‘No botox,’ you ask, playfully,
as I carry on touching your years.
It’s a kissing game, you smile, you’ve figured it out:
who can get the last kiss in?

Later, I let you run your finger
along the scars on my breasts.
Are you shy?
The day’s light is like a mirror.

Later, you will say, I like exploring your body with my hands.
Later, I will watch as you rise out of bed,
it’s afternoon now,
your breasts small, still cupped by time,
softly, gently,
seeing you glide back into your clothes.

Featured Poem:

Scars & Your Face

Enlarge poem

SCARS
The round red one on the leg
comes from an infected insect bite,
and reminds you of a weekend away in KwaZulu Natal.
The pockmark on your forehead
was from chicken pox at twenty-one.
The indent at the top of your nose:
childhood acne.

You remember holding a mirror in the bath, aged five,
Too young then to realise it might slip, which it did, that night,
cutting into your knee.
Too young then, to know about the scars of the flesh, markers of a life,
signposts along the way.
Visual memories of what’s happened when,
individual as fingerprints,
yet more arbitrary and irregular.

They surround us, these markings, on others too, friends,
family, those we have loved.
We remember a cut on a thumb, where a tendon hung by a thin filigree.
Or, the scar of the root of a tooth ripped out,
the thin gunmetal lining around the capped tooth,
when our loved one smiles, reminding us daily of a root ripped away.
The mottled patches of brown that scatter a boyfriend’s back
tell of childhood eczema.
The cigarette burn fades,
but the child remembers the startled look on her mother’s face
as the cigarette was dropped accidentally.
Or, can you count this, the grey on the crown of the head,
sprouting forth? Another scar perhaps,
another reminder of time’s stealthy breath.

YOUR FACE
The face changes,
is changing, mercurial.
Trying to hold onto it
leaves you chasing images
that fade as they appear.
The night you held the blanket over your face
like a veil,
you were someone else then,
head tilted coquettish.
Or the days worry etched itself clean
across your features,
and I could only watch.

One day you throw your head against
the wind, and it etches your hair across your profile,
and I too carry that in my head.
(but most aren’t like that of course)

You laugh, exposing teeth
and I want to catch your laughter like music.
Another moment that tinkles past,
rippling through me.
There are times I see your mother in your face,
and your brother, the line of family that runs through us all.
And there are times when your eyes are closed to me,
and that’s all part of it.
And then also the softness of making love,
your eyes soft, misted, close to mine,
your face softened by the moment.

This is a hard poem to write.
In trying to capture you, your face,
define you by the mercurial moods of a day,
I’m left with images. The word is so hard, (word is hard?)
and yet the memory of images,
so soft, delicate.
I’m wishing there were other words,
another way to say it.

Scars & Your Face by Arja Salafranca

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (2)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

The Elephant is Unhappy & You wake softly

Enlarge poem

THE ELEPHANT IS UNHAPPY
The ground is squelchy underfoot.
The elephant is unhappy.
The grass sparse, wet.
A dog is chained to a table.
“I am on guard,” is the sign
around a caravan.
At the next caravan, a woman
holding a cigarette retreats
to its shuttered interior.
The chained dog finds shelter
beneath the camping table,
its tail between its legs.

In the field by the main road
the elephants have attracted onlookers.
A mother holds her child.
The elephants are still, silent.
An elephant blows dust onto herself,
burrowing a hole into the ground
as she sucks up dust, blows it,
uses her trunk to enlarge a hole at her feet.

Her hide is wrinkled grey.
Beyond her cars stream along the wide,
sun-bleached road.
She is tethered by foot,
held by a stake in the ground.
Men sort hay and grass.
The elephant moves, her ears flap,
her trunk grasps into the air,
she sways, the chain stretches, just
before she reaches the end of the chain’s pull,
she stops, sways, knows she can’t go any further.
Her trunk reaches out again.
Her big body sways slightly,
a foot moves forward. The elephant is unhappy.

Silently, we walk away. The ground is
squelchy underfoot, and the caravans
are inscrutable: you can’t see through
their small lace-covered windows.

YOU WAKE SOFTLY
You wake softly, against me,
a soft sigh escapes from you
as you welcome in a day,
and a smile accents your lips.
I kiss the parenthesis around your mouth.
‘No botox,’ you ask, playfully,
as I carry on touching your years.
It’s a kissing game, you smile, you’ve figured it out:
who can get the last kiss in?

Later, I let you run your finger
along the scars on my breasts.
Are you shy?
The day’s light is like a mirror.

Later, you will say, I like exploring your body with my hands.
Later, I will watch as you rise out of bed,
it’s afternoon now,
your breasts small, still cupped by time,
softly, gently,
seeing you glide back into your clothes.

Comments

  1. Hello, your poems are so great. Am too a poet,a young upcoming poet actually. I come from Kenya. I am just 18 and wrote about 35 poems but lack a hand in support as i look forward to launch an anthology.

    issa

Your email address will not be published.