Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Finuala Dowling

Featured Poem:

For Oom Piet/Repair/To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair

Enlarge poem

For Oom Piet

When I was least happy in life
my daughter led me across the road
to a neighbour whom I did not know
with the purpose of a toddler
who does not see gates and fences
but the ducks and puppies
on the other side

You spoke to me in the same low murmuring tones
you used for lame horses and bilious dogs.
Crops, flowers and poultry were our theme:
you made me tea and wiped the counter,
you said “Foeitog” and “I don’t hope so.”
You guessed.
You told me I was beautiful,
in the courtly way of an old man.

One day when it rained
you phoned from your side and said
“I’m sending some ducks for Beatrix”
– you always called her “Beatrix” –
out the window we saw them,
waddling over,
in the way of ducks
when directed by Oom Piet.

You moved and I moved, but one thing stays:
the sense of a rescue, somehow being saved.

Repair

Two friends of mine, hardly blood brothers,
have this in common: that they lost their mothers
to heaven or a better man at the tender age of four –
the same age as Beatrice when they met us.
Like all my friends they brought her treats,
teased her sweetly or applauded her feats
so that I thought, how good – they are healed –
they are here with us grown ups on the other side.
Until I noticed how when Beatrice cried
the great racking sobs of a child who is tired,
or defeated, or strung out like straining wire,
these friends followed when I carried her to bed,
stayed for the story, the caressing of the head,
waited for the bottle, the curtains drawn across
on a room full of children and their irreparable loss.

To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair

I just wanted to say on behalf of us all
that on the night in question
there was a light on in the hall
for a nervous little sleeper
and when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care
faraway a Karoo shepherd crooned a ramkietjie lullaby in the veld
and while you staunched
there was space on a mother-warmed sheet
for a night walker
and when you administered an infant-sized opiate
there were luxuriant dark nipples
for fist-clenching babes
and when you called for more blood
a bleary-eyed uncle got up to make a feed
and while you stitched
there was another chapter of a favourite story
and while you cleaned
a grandpa’s thin legs walked up and down for a colicky crier
and when finally you stood exhausted at the end of her cot
and asked, “Where is God?”,
a father sat watch.
And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust
that you would do what you did,
that you could do what you did.
We slept in trust that you lived.

For Oom Piet/Repair/To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair by Finuala Dowling

Download the audio file

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (248)
  • Pride (78)
  • Optimism (52)
  • Anger (68)
  • Delight (25)
  • Inspiration (24)
  • Reflection (34)
  • Captivation (17)
  • Peace (15)
  • Amusement (25)
  • Sorrow (62)
  • Vigour (20)
  • Hope (35)
  • Sadness (109)
  • Fear (36)
  • Jubilation (21)

Comments

  1. hi
    I love South African literature as it always embraces the struggles and liberation of us as a whole. Be it liberation from apartheid or abuse.
    I would like a little analysis on the poem to the doctor that treated the raped baby by Finuala dowling.
    I would like to understand it themes and tone as well as litrary devices a little better.
    Please help.

    saira cassim

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

Finuala Dowling was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1962. Her first volume of poetry, I Flying, won the Ingrid Jonker Prize and her second collection, Doo-Wop Girls of the Universe, was joint winner of the SANLAM award. Her third volume of poetry, Notes from the dementia ward won the Olive Schreiner Prize. She has appeared as a guest poet at the Aldeburgh festival and at Snape Maltings in the UK, and at all of South Africa’s major literary festivals. In May-June of 2012 she appeared with other South African poets at the Biennale Internationale des Poètes en Val-de-Marne in Paris.

Finuala is the author of three novels, the most recent of which — Homemaking for the Down-at-Heart — won the 2012 MNet prize for fiction.

Finuala has a Masters and doctorate in English literature. She writes textbooks, runs poetry workshops and occasionally gives lectures.

Finuala Dowling

Biography

Finuala Dowling was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1962. Her first volume of poetry, I Flying, won the Ingrid Jonker Prize and her second collection, Doo-Wop Girls of the Universe, was joint winner of the SANLAM award. Her third volume of poetry, Notes from the dementia ward won the Olive Schreiner Prize. She has appeared as a guest poet at the Aldeburgh festival and at Snape Maltings in the UK, and at all of South Africa’s major literary festivals. In May-June of 2012 she appeared with other South African poets at the Biennale Internationale des Poètes en Val-de-Marne in Paris.

Finuala is the author of three novels, the most recent of which — Homemaking for the Down-at-Heart — won the 2012 MNet prize for fiction.

Finuala has a Masters and doctorate in English literature. She writes textbooks, runs poetry workshops and occasionally gives lectures.

Featured Poem:

For Oom Piet/Repair/To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair

Enlarge poem

For Oom Piet

When I was least happy in life
my daughter led me across the road
to a neighbour whom I did not know
with the purpose of a toddler
who does not see gates and fences
but the ducks and puppies
on the other side

You spoke to me in the same low murmuring tones
you used for lame horses and bilious dogs.
Crops, flowers and poultry were our theme:
you made me tea and wiped the counter,
you said “Foeitog” and “I don’t hope so.”
You guessed.
You told me I was beautiful,
in the courtly way of an old man.

One day when it rained
you phoned from your side and said
“I’m sending some ducks for Beatrix”
– you always called her “Beatrix” –
out the window we saw them,
waddling over,
in the way of ducks
when directed by Oom Piet.

You moved and I moved, but one thing stays:
the sense of a rescue, somehow being saved.

Repair

Two friends of mine, hardly blood brothers,
have this in common: that they lost their mothers
to heaven or a better man at the tender age of four –
the same age as Beatrice when they met us.
Like all my friends they brought her treats,
teased her sweetly or applauded her feats
so that I thought, how good – they are healed –
they are here with us grown ups on the other side.
Until I noticed how when Beatrice cried
the great racking sobs of a child who is tired,
or defeated, or strung out like straining wire,
these friends followed when I carried her to bed,
stayed for the story, the caressing of the head,
waited for the bottle, the curtains drawn across
on a room full of children and their irreparable loss.

To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair

I just wanted to say on behalf of us all
that on the night in question
there was a light on in the hall
for a nervous little sleeper
and when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care
faraway a Karoo shepherd crooned a ramkietjie lullaby in the veld
and while you staunched
there was space on a mother-warmed sheet
for a night walker
and when you administered an infant-sized opiate
there were luxuriant dark nipples
for fist-clenching babes
and when you called for more blood
a bleary-eyed uncle got up to make a feed
and while you stitched
there was another chapter of a favourite story
and while you cleaned
a grandpa’s thin legs walked up and down for a colicky crier
and when finally you stood exhausted at the end of her cot
and asked, “Where is God?”,
a father sat watch.
And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust
that you would do what you did,
that you could do what you did.
We slept in trust that you lived.

For Oom Piet/Repair/To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair by Finuala Dowling

Download the audio file

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (248)
  • Pride (78)
  • Optimism (52)
  • Anger (68)
  • Delight (25)
  • Inspiration (24)
  • Reflection (34)
  • Captivation (17)
  • Peace (15)
  • Amusement (25)
  • Sorrow (62)
  • Vigour (20)
  • Hope (35)
  • Sadness (109)
  • Fear (36)
  • Jubilation (21)

Comments

  1. hi
    I love South African literature as it always embraces the struggles and liberation of us as a whole. Be it liberation from apartheid or abuse.
    I would like a little analysis on the poem to the doctor that treated the raped baby by Finuala dowling.
    I would like to understand it themes and tone as well as litrary devices a little better.
    Please help.

    saira cassim

Your email address will not be published.