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    African Writers’ Corner

    Unfamiliar potatoes

    Elizabeth Joss

    2009-01-08, Issue 414

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    We used to scrub and shine
    those soiled potatoes
    until they looked alien
    to the earth
    you once called me a potato
    one before the scrubbing
    a slob
    rounded and out of
    I locked myself up for days
    uncomfortably looked down
    at my reflection
    in the glass door to the house
    which distorted my
    figure even more so
    and now years later I laugh
    and think of you as the potato
    mouldy green and brown
    with wrinkles, misery,
    sharp stench and frown
    all alien to me
    and now I smile
    I am long past the stage
    of rotten potato


    Frail and bony
    Touch the side of the dark
    green suede chair
    a magician caressing a
    velvet cape
    the dense smell of old oak
    musty cupboards
    which I open
    in the cold passageway
    furniture piled up high
    someone left in a hurry
    those bony fingers
    tigers eye stone ring
    my glaring hazel eyes
    as I watch the brass
    you clean
    smell of furniture polish
    and potpourri
    books stale from the sun
    their pages yellowing
    the tobacco walls
    cleaning –
    your attempt
    to replace any loss
    the dusk cannot settle
    as the sun slowly dims
    I think of the houses that
    I have lived in


    To father for leaving
    me at the bosom
    for raging wars inside
    my shriveled heart
    for not knowing me
    like I know me
    To father for staying
    Put. Amongst the plastics
    Of your factory
    family life
    Hitler reincarnated
    For being right
    for being right
    no in-between
    black and white


    He sat on the balcony dazed in the actuality of the reciprocating gesture her face held. Every few minutes he would break, gently placing his fingers between the crystal stem of the wine glass. Its imbalance on the wicker laundry basket made her feel uneasy. She observed him carefully. The Aryan eyes, the sensitive skin which showed promise of a beard. She delighted in those little sprouting hairs around his mouth and when he kissed her she felt them rub against her bottom lip gently. He was not harshly or terribly manly in any regard. His nature delicate, elegant, as he dipped his back slowly to place his hand in hers. Her hand uncurled to let his in. At times she struggled to read the constituents of his thoughts, piece by piece, but could rather almost quite make sense of them all as a whole, as a body, as a pulse. Knowing the outcome as though being with him was something of a permanent déjà vu. But it was in essence his words, his accent that lured her into his being, into his wonderful web of rapture. Time was precious, they both knew that. And as he looked up at where the tree had been, he looked into a view of wine farms on the hill, which were fading into shadows now. Her eyes were focused on his, darting at his long eyelashes as he looked over from the dark green hillside and then to the left where tin shacks with tiny lights shimmered on the landscape. On nights like these, they would sit and love. Sit and dream. He would tell her stories of his travels and they would mesmerize her, divulge to her all that she has missed in him. And then her thoughts would suddenly accumulate clay bricks that would press her shoulders down, bricks of unaccomplished desires, unsatisfied longings. How she yearned to travel with him, how she struggled to wait until the time was right. Her mind ventured off with his into realms, which she had never dared to venture. Realms which they would dream of and explore together that night. He noticed that her breathing became slower now as they both moved to the bedroom inside and switched off the lamp. He lowered her carefully down and made sure a glass of water stood nearby on the wooden table. As they both lay there, she sighed, he sighed, and together they fell deeper and deeper into a whirlwind of dreams. In those dreams she would play out the longings, the unfulfilled desires. Fragments of which would build up inside her subconscious. And she would run. From one town to the next, one village to the next, one road to the next. In her dreams she was geographer, English teacher, choreographer, publisher, sufferer. And he would breathe together with her, inevitably, always. She appeared content now, her head tilted towards his, her toes clutching his as she moved between fragments of dream, chapters unresolved and absurd. Such a young couple fast asleep in this room with no curtains. And the stars were brightly now and lit up the room. As the night became more and more still, she grabbed his hand in her sleep and cried, “To kill someone”. And he was silent.

    * Elizabeth Joss was born in Cape Town, where she studied for a BA in Socio-Informatics and English Studies at the University of Stellenbosch (2004). She completed her Honours degree in English Studies and Teaching in 2007 and is currently reading for her Master’s degree with a focus on gender and transnational translocation.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

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