Poems by Alan Finlay

Harare

At the Bronte Hotel, the
lawn is shaved to a
turtle’s step – and a deep
green pool of memory

blinks in the light,

as birds nightshift from
their nests.

The Colonel steps into the wicker-chaired room.
The wicker chairs are rationed in waiting circles.
Silver ashtrays glitter. Brimmed hats peep in

i yawn with a closed mouth.
i am polite, and therefore dangerous.
i smooth my currency across the table.
i buy my beer.

The Colonel comes in with goose steps.
A repossessed farm.
A sudden coherence.

And the old man wiping the windows
has grown into his chore
like a callus.

There is that
forbidding stare
that says nothing. But a
retreat, another weight.

I cut the line

and the emptiness returns.
The
sunlit patch where the cat
licks its paddles. The familiarity
of garden chairs, negotiated laughter.

Cards spilt across the deck.
A cigarette lit.
(the cat vomits beside the

lunch buffet, and the Colonel
puts on his glasses, to look).

*

i fall asleep to the
gallop of frogs
in a river nearby

fear only the mosquitoes

as the chorale-infested
State Broadcaster,
eggs everyone into religion.

*

state radio: no man
can kill God. His
victory is permanent.

 

diverting attention

a committee is formed around the coals

those for and against
putting chicken on before the chops
keeping the lid on the weber
or braaing on an open flame

placing the cooked meat
back into the original marinade pan
flattening the coals and adding more

whether smoke means burning meat
or the politics of using your
drinking beer to douse the flames.

Soon the participants in this
exotic democratic dwindle
down to one. Like parliamentarians

who rarely
go to work

out of gradual disagreement.

And the one who remains at
the centre of the
roaring heat

forms the nucleus
of the carcass.

With unzipped sleeping bags
spread out on the lawn
the german shepherd
has forgotten all his training

and sniffs from
hand
to hand
snatching what he can

before someone shoves him off.

The toddlers are the easiest prey.
They flap their bread slices
like white, innocent flags.
And howl, diverting attention
from the mangy mugger
when they get robbed.

He skulks in the bushes
licking the butter
from his paws.
Pure jakkals.
Stalking the suburbs.

The happy flowers accept the rain.
The grass shrinks to an itch on the shoulder.

Blurred out on the lawn
blankets and cushions and squeaky toys.

A glass of warm wine.
Strained, with friends.

When:

someone asks what I think about GEAR.

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