writing/extracts

reviews

An Obscure and Unusual Window onto a City: An interview with Jason Donald about his novel 'Dalila' Glasgow Review of Books, May 2017

Writing stories about asylum poses its own peculiar difficulties. As Donald admits, “the story of an asylum seeker on a journey is a full story – it’s a story on a plate. It’s wonderful resource material, but as a writer you have to be careful how you use it, because it’s a classic journey story: horror to redemption. It’s too easy.

memoir

Fragment from a Johannesburg Memoir

She and me and foursquare walls. I am in their life now.New baby in number twofourtwo Acacia Gardens. She and me. We look at each other, my blue eye; hers.  We are as big as the sky our world so round and full of each other. Alone together we circle. When she looks at me she leans. Over and over her blue eye swallows mine. It is the eye of love. How do I know this? Her blue gaze, a soft arm to scoop me up. I am. I am the perfect baby, a creature with the chance to be anything.

Published in New Writing Scotland, 34

poetry

Keys like Electricity

 

toaster lit cigarette

struggles to catch

 

owl on the fence

Renfrewshire landscape 

 

cows turning back

to a low September sun

 

that heated the hollow

of your neck, the left side

 

covered our kissing

above the Clyde

 

still glowed

as you turned the key

 

sparked with static

when we dropped our clothes

 

smelling of river wind

cockles and chips

 

 

Latching on

 

In the lowest light

of candle flicker, my hand

overshadows your soft head

while you nestle and suck

 

latch on, settle in

feed on my body,

lips warm, eyes closed

both dreaming
 

of that sickly
unsuckled boy, rocked

in your mother's desperate arms,

as she smiles at us from your mantelpiece.

stories

Yeoville Water Tower

Image courtesy Johannesburg Heritage Foundation

States of Emergency, published in New Orleans Review, 43 (2017)

 

Halley’s Comet streaked across the Southern sky in February 1986. This was a time when information was thin on the ground; a time to read signs wherever we could find them. It was not lost on us that Halley’s Comet, that red star shaking down disease, pestilence and war, had become visible at times of great historical turbulance: the Battle of Hastings, the Great Plague of London, Napoleon preparing for his fateful invasion of Russia. In Governor Van der Stel’s Cape diary of 1682, he records a sighting of the comet linking it to ‘heavy rains and an insect pest that has destroyed the crops. What will happen when the comet has sunk right down God Almighty alone can tell.[i]’

According to my Calvinist middle class upbringing, the Bible was clear about our state of sin and God’s inevitable punishment and although I no longer attended Church or believed in these notions intellectually, during this time I became deeply superstitious. The Comet was a harbinger of something and I gave it the mystical attention it deserved.

The Comet had been visible for a few months in the early hours of the morning and what I remember of this time is a warm April evening climbing the hill to the latticed dome of the Yeoville water tower with a six pack of Black Label, a roll of blankets and a copy of the I Ching I had stolen especially for this occasion. The night was shrill with crickets as we stared into the sky trying to discern the trail of the Comet from millions of starry points. I threw coins on the blanket, squinting at the I Ching, deciphering the hexagram by torchlight. ‘Listen here! I shouted to the company, trying to make myself heard above the noise of the party. ‘It says that strength in the face of danger does not plunge ahead but bides its time.’

Hours later, still trying to see a sign in the sky, I fell asleep. The comet amounted only to a brief smudge across the sky that night; disappointing by all accounts. When I woke, shivering and hungover, like a disciple in Gethsemane it had passed while I slept.

 

[i] Quarmby, R. (1985) Halley’s Comet in South Africa, October 1985-May1986, Delta Books, p. 11

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© 2017 Lynnda Wardle