Jana van Niekerk is a South African writer living in Cape Town. Her short stories and poetry appear in multiple journals including New Coin, New Contrast, Botsotso and Aerodrome and in collections such as For the Duration (brought out by Botsotso in 2015) and The Garden of the Beloved (the 2021 McGregor Poetry Festival Anthology). She has also published children’s books and romance novellas under different names.

I told you

I told you I wanted Brad Pitt to pop my cherry.

You said you would stand in

till he arrived.

I told you I was no Thelma and Louise

Hell-bent on destruction.

You said this car can fly.

I told you

only half the story,

a third,


Because it didn’t seem to matter.

You listened, so I didn’t have to speak.

When I told you the really big things

I had to show you

you said

I want to hear it all. You used my name, but used

is not the right word.

What I didn’t tell you

is I want you

so you started singing it instead,

I made you

but not.

What I can’t tell you

is not silent but invisible,

sparkling and unwitting like Brad

to be sure

but poignant

like he never was,

Thelma only knows.


This mouse and I shared some bread.

It was good.

I did not mind that

his mouse lips had been where mine are now.

His mouse teeth

tearing away the soft ciabatta cliffs

in fact I barely noticed

the indent in the loaf

his kamikaze ways

his little life.

He might have been

the baker’s thumb

an air bubble

a burp in the dough

an illusion

except I saw the way

where he had gnawed the wall to get in

squeezed his soft body

into impossibly narrow cracks

flattening himself

like this very slice

wondering why I was so furious

not to share

the joy of my kitchen

his fuzzy whiskers imprinted in the butter,

his breath


I was on that mountain in Israel

Oh God of us all,

my Elijah.

I stood by the Jordan,

as you are my witness.

You asked,

What are you worshipping?

The ravens feed us.

We parted the waters.

I know the plans I have for you.

For good, and not disaster.

I will not burn you to the ground my Love.

Our meeting room

had admittance

rugged enough

to turn back the tempter’s power.

Our gateway.


and I am sorry to be so crass

as to communicate the incommunicable

But we missed the sticky door of death.

God came to fetch us

with fiery horses

the solid ground we had walked so long on

the dry whirlwind,

the lava of our altars.

I can’t be the sacrificial lamb,

you said

that sip of whiskey

the bottle still held in the cupboard

just in case.

I always thought I would

come down

one day

and somehow you would give me a Tablet.

I had to be near you.

I needed to be cheerful.

You would help.

Instead I got a taste for

letting go and letting be.

I am the word,

I said:

faith, miracle and adversity.


Good morning Beloved

The Beloved didn’t speak


so that something terrible

doesn’t happen in the night

When she does,

she says thank you my Angel

But first of all

how was that rain, the shower

under the flag of goodwill

Perhaps peace is not the

absence of violence

between word and music

How was

a swallow gargling in his throat

that which was


written on the threshold.