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Read, Write, Love

Dear Dad

By | Read, Write, Love

Vending Machine

By | Read, Write, Love

from the novel Ordinary Things

By Kasper Paseko

Whenever you see a vending machine you fall in love with her description and the city gives birth to your daughter.
    Once, when you were unemployed in the recession, they sent you to work for a telemarketing company. At first they had you selling personal alarms. The script tried to scare people in the kindest possible way. The target market was old women, the most likely to stay on the phone, the most likely to feel the need for a personal alarm. It made your mouth say they were selling personal alarms for charity, so if they hadn’t hung up already, you had to lay guilt on them too. You asked the manager how much of the money went to charity, in case anyone asked. It was 5% . . . .
    Each morning, as a break, you went to get yourself a Coke from the drink vending machine. You always chose Coke but it always took a long time to make your selection. Once, instead of reciting the script at your cubicle, you stood there remembering helping your friend’s flatmate load his drums into his van. He was talking about this girl, “She works in publishing. She’s got black hair in this cute bob. And her dark eyes give her face this unusual intelligence.”
    “You’d like her,” your friend said.
    “I’m already falling in love. What else?”
    When you first met, she was that old riddle of beauty: a crow pierced by an arrow, a splash of blood on the snow. In her living room you agreed on your dislike of Dostoyevsky. You disagreed on Kerouac and Austen. You discovered a mutual quiet appreciation of Simon and Garfunkel. Her abrupt changes in temper woke you from your soporific disposition. She was a sudden electric storm breaking the listless torpor of summer afternoon. She was…
    What would a good looking, intelligent, accomplished, self-possessed, noble, eloquent woman such as this want with a bum like you? You resigned yourself to pining for a few weeks before relinquishing hopeless hopes. . . .
    At a party you both argued. What was it got you started? . . .
    “Would you stop contradicting everything I say.”
    “I’m not contradicting you, I’m just saying.”
    “Yes and I’m just saying. I didn’t say things can be the same, I’m just saying I saw it in a movie, because of what he said. It’s called a conversation.”
    “Yeah, and I’m just saying something because of what you said. It’s called a conversation.”
    “It’s not a conversation. You’re sniping all the time.”
    “But, it’s not the case that anything is exactly…”
    “I’m just saying what was in the movie.”
    “Ok. I’m just saying it doesn’t happen to be the case.”
    “You insufferable arrogant, pedantic…”
    ​You both had held your peace, not wanting to cause any more of a scene in front of the others. There was an awkward silence. Her opinion of you then was clear. What could be more contemptible than a washed up loser with no prospects who nevertheless thinks he’s somehow everyone’s intellectual superior?
You went back to the phone, computer and script. Somewhere in this world there was a crow killed in snow and you must forget her.
    Back on the phones they put you on a government health questionnaire. Some people told you to fuck off. Some just hung up. Some begrudgingly gave you their time out of recognition of its importance to public health. Some seemed happy to have someone to talk to for a change. It was extraordinary: the intimate confessions people would make once they knew it was anonymous.•I had a cancer removed and now use a colostomy bag.
     • My husband is manic depressive so I gave up work some years ago to take care of him. I suffer from stress sometimes.
     • I work an 80 hour week. I try to do the right thing. I wonder why. I just keep smiling.
    • My father was abusive and manipulative. My ex abducted my son.
    • I hate this town. I can’t wait to leave.
    • I have incontinence. I was raped 10 years ago. It was in the war. It was normal then for that sort of thing to happen. Every woman. Every girl.
    • I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t get treatment. They tell me I have one thing, then they tell me I don’t have it. They don’t believe my symptoms.
    • When they told me I had cancer it changed everything. It’s funny but sometimes I think I was never really alive until I was dying. I got so anxious, sometimes, thinking about every second . . . But you see it’s not just me. Everyone is dying. They just don’t know when. Why do people have to find out when before they can stop and change what they’re doing with their life?

She sat on the hospital bed, a monitoring device attached to a belt strapped around her waist, connected to a machine pipping regularly, displaying the graphs and numbers of the baby’s vital signs. A doctor entered with a large screen on a trolley. She squeezed gel on her belly and moved the ultrasound handset around, watching the glimpses of feet, ribs, brains and fluttering heart on the screen. The doctor took the machine away again. She groaned more and more, sucking on the tube connected to the cylinder of pressurised nitrous oxide, saying it did no good. She sat in the shower for hours as the waves of agony increased in frequency and amplitude. You hoped you wouldn’t need to push the red button at the bed to call the nurse in case of dire crisis. The nurses came in to check on progress and inserted a needle in her wrist, connected by tube to a bag of clear liquid on a stand. For another two hours every wave of pain seemed the most extreme pain anyone could possibly bear, yet each was worse than the last. They moved her and the machines to another room. The anaesthetist arrived and inserted a needle into her lower spine. She declared her love for the anaesthetist and listened to the nurse explain that now she could not feel the pain, she would need to pay attention to the monitor. When it picked up her contractions on the screen she must push. Another doctor with strong arms came in to the room, inserted large metal levers, cranked the baby into position and pulled. The blue child began life dead. They took it to a small table, inserted a tube, sucked its airways clear, pumped air into its lungs, clipped its umbilical cord, attached a monitor, strapped an identification label to its wrist and returned it, living, to its mother’s breast.

Request to the Heart Surgeon

By | Read, Write, Love

By Gail Hennessy

You will be handling my lover’s heart
go carefully and slowly
make sure you have slept well
the night before and that your hands are steady

I believe you will stop his heart
I used to do that when we were young

or almost. I will be waiting outside
the theatre for your news, ready to enter
the intensive care unit. You had best use
every skill at your finger tips I implore

that you are methodical and careful
that you choose well the replacement

veins from his leg and stitch neatly
and when you enter his chest cavity

do so with utmost care, slice, peel back
as you would soft fruit, gently

be aware that you are mending two hearts
for his heart is also mine.

My Grandmother Died When I was Ten

By | Read, Write, Love

God’s waiting room

By | Read, Write, Love


By | Read, Write, Love


By | Read, Write, Love

By | Read, Write, Love

By Grant Palmer

It is a spoon. Not just any spoon. It’s my spoon. I have had it for 31 years – part of the kit I was issued on 22 Jan 85. That’s a long time for a spoon and it’s all I have now to remind me of those early years. Its friends – the knife and the fork – are long gone, the holy trinity of cutlery now only one.
 The spoon lived in my army webbing those 32 years, webbing worn comfortable with time, travelling the world with its mate, the Cup Canteen. Everything one needs to concoct the gourmet delights of ration packs Type A, B, C, D, and E: cheese in a can, Corned Beef Hash, Instant Potato with Onion, and biscuits, always smashed; cuisine that would put Heston to shame.
    My spoon. Essential to life in the dirt, a “must have to deploy,” we are told. Endless kit checks making sure that we have our spoon. If we didn’t, we obviously weren’t fit to deploy.
    My spoon went to Timor, a veteran it now is. Nine months of enforcing the peace. Dining each night, smashed lamb, fish as chewy as armoured vehicle track pad, and Sara Lee butter cake our dessert.
    “Can we get some cheese cake?’ Murray hopefully scrawls in the mess suggestion book each night.
    Eventually, a response: “Of course.”
    We look forward with anticipation as another week passes. Then one night, the menu announces “Cheesecake!” much to our delight. And there it is, in the bain marie at 70 degrees: Sara Lee Butter Cake sprinkled with cheese and placed under the grill. Lucky I had my spoon for so sumptuous a feast.
    Now, retired from adventuring with no more stories to make, the telling getting louder and larger, more distant and vague. But one thing still with me, after 32 years: “Stay low, move fast, don’t eat anything bigger than your head … and always carry a spoon!”

PLAISIR D’AMOUR’ Played on Wine Glasses

By | Read, Write, Love

By Jean Kent

Today a suede summer evening comes back to visit
the brie-creamy buildings behind
saffron-fringed trees
above the stirred-green sleep of the Seine.

Although already dusk in dark overcoats
has been stalking the foreign lovers,

today a suede summer evening comes back.
Today walking out their steps in time
no longer annoy
twilight’s soft nap. On Pont St-Louis
that man whose mist of music
swirls at twilight from his fingers

is running them again lightly rippling the air
over a little world of goblet-trapped lakes.

Sighs dropped into the water are silvering
scars dissolving absolved

as all the strolling city stops
grave as deer
in a pale, still forest of stone

accepting for one somnambulent hour
‘Plaisir d’Amour’ ―
a faint, tender swoon
fingered out carefully over glass.

Don’t Give Me Chocolates

By | Read, Write, Love

By Anne Blackwell

By the time I was three years old I had already had two white nannies. One broke her neck diving into a swimming pool and the other was German who taught my twin sister and me to ‘Heil Hitler.’ My father came into the nursery one morning and we both threw our arms into the air and cried, “Hi Hidler.’ That nannie was fired on the spot.
Then, like magic, Pie slipped into my life. Pie was coloured, which in South Africa meant a mix of black and white. In the pecking order of racism, coloured people were slightly superior to the blacks. I had no idea of what Apartheid meant until I grew older and saw what it was doing to Pie. It was something that crept under my skin as a small child, but it was never talked about openly. It simmered silently in the background and, as I got older, left me feeling confused as to how I should react to Pie.
From the first instant I adored her. My love for her was very intense and demonstrative, with lots of puppy like behavior such as climbing and rolling all over her, hugging, kissing and sucking her face and folding myself into her soft body and being completely uninhibited. One day my mother walked into the nursery looked at my sister and I playing with Pie and her whole body went ridged and her face turned red.
“Carolyn,” she said, “don’t let the twins do that to you.”
Pie got up slowly disengaging herself from us and said, “What Madam?”
“Letting them climb all over you like that and . . .” The atmosphere in the nursery turned cold and, even at four years of age, I could feel that change but I was not sure why.
“Now let’s sit down at the table and show Pie what good manners we have,” my mother said, leading my sister and I to a small table.
Pie was a mother to me, my constant companion; my security blanket and I loved her deeply. I remember her smell, it was a mixture of coconut and cinnamon, I think it was whatever she put in her hair, the feel of her soft body, her crinkly brown face and her soft voice with its thick Cape accent. She got us up in the morning, fed us, scolded us, read us stories, and played with us, and put us to bed again at night. In the evening we were taken into the lounge to say good night to our parents and my mother would say,
“That will be all, Carolyn. We will ring for you when it is time for the twins to go to bed.” My mother sat in a comfortable chair looking gorgeous dressed in a silk jade dress. I watched Pie leave in her white starched uniform and cap back into the kitchen.

When I was nine years old, I stole a box of chocolates from my dad to give to Pie on her birthday. They were in a golden box with a lovely red ribbon and I was certain my dad would not notice. My mother had already left the house, so I met Pie outside the front gate and gave her the chocolates, as she left for her day off.
“Oh, Miss Ann, where did you get these?” She asked shocked.
“One of Dad’s patients gave them to me,” I lied.
She looked at me in a funny way and said, “Thankyou, my precious, but I had better hide them or someone might steal them on the train to Soweto.” She tucked them inside her coat.
On Monday morning Pie did not turn up to make my parents tea at 7am. My mother raged about and her cries of “where the hell is she? And ‘they are utterly hopeless’,“ echoed through the house. My stomach churned and I could not eat my breakfast. I was terrified someone had happened to Pie.
At 11am the front door bell rang and standing on the veranda was a white police officer.
“Is this your servants Pass Book?” He asked.
“Yes, is there a problem Officer?” My mother asked.
“We found her beaten up at Soweto station last night and she has been taken to the native hospital. “ He replied.
“Oh, My God, is she alright?”
“Yes, I think so,” he said. “But we found this box of chocolates hidden under her coat. You can’t trust any of these kaffirs, they steal everything.” He handed mum her Pass Book and the chocolates and walked down the driveway.
I fell to the floor yelling.
“I stole the chocolates, I gave them to her.” I was heartbroken and filled with rage and blubbered on. “Oh, please, it wasn’t her.”
My mother put the chocolates under her arm and turned and looked down at me and said, “Get up at once, Ann, and stop being so silly. When Carolyn comes back these chocolates are coming off her wages.’
“But, please mum, I did,” I cried. But she walked past me and was gone leaving me feeling humiliated, guilty, angry and completely helpless.
Pie returned a few days later and I could not look at her. She came into my bedroom and said, “Thank you for the present, Miss Ann, but don’t steal for me,” and left the room with my laundry under her arm