“Suits” and “Urban Dance”
They lied! It’s not the same! You watch re-runs
to reconcile a semblance of reel and real life
To console and remind yourself of the reason you started…
First to fade is the illusion of glamour:
you swop heels for flats to parley with potholed pavements
and avoid flirty old men who’ve forgotten
their age… wisdom… and daughters
Sharks, sniffing fresh candidate meat,
bet on how long it will take for you to break.
The seasoned, lesser souled, sport perverse pleasure
In pushing you over the edge – misery loves company!
But what actually breaks you is the two-year-old –
In court! And the others like her!
You no longer hold back tears as you tell me about it later
You should’ve seen her, you say
She’s so cute. Innocent! A baby!
How could her father do that?
Within a space of two months,
I helplessly watch you break
Over and over and over again,
surrounded by venomous vipers
in a hard, cruel, bitter, ruthless new world
I’ve raised you to be soft, kind, loving
I’ve raised you for a hopeful, better world
I’ve sheltered you. Have I failed you?
Nightly, I apply Arnica to ease back muscles
pulled stiff under a pile of files
saying silent, fervent, healing prayers
over your heart chakra in the process
and soothingly suggest soaking your sore feet
in warm salt water
Your father urges you to leave this field
saying it’s quite okay to quit!
He strengthens his case by mentioning all your classmates
who’ve already changed career course
But you’ve inherited your mother’s stubborn resolve!
So I tell you about my aunts and their daughters
who also cried during articles when tender beauties
had to face down hardened criminals
‘One is an ombudsman now
The second, a summa cum laude
opted to be part of a multinational
The third is an early-retired diplomat, once in charge
of the five islands, thereafter stationed in Paris. My point –
It will get better!
As for the sharks and vipers of the world, remember:
they’re just people who’ve been hurt – and are still hurting
It becomes easier when you see them as that
But learn quickly how to avoid them bleeding on you!
I will teach you, if you pay close attention
Pain is a lesson – it hardens some and softens some
It takes a great deal of strength and wisdom
to choose softness after pain
Never mistake this softness for weakness – It is powerful!’
Until then, I say protective prayers handed
down to subdue ancient demons
that stand alongside man, whispering hate
and hostility into unsuspecting Hearts –
though some have hearts already diseased, or dead
As you walk through this perilous Valley of Death
I fervently pray that the Almighty walks with you
I fervently pray that you don’t succumb,
to the viperous venom…
In South Africa, we landmark potholes
on the roads we regularly ride zigzagging
to avoid these moon craters, big and small
The uninitiated may think us under the influence
or mirroring the reckless abandon of taxis
that swerve daringly between traffic
trying to squeeze in an extra trip, or six!
Our drivers will surely fair well
on obstacle courses should it
become an international sport!
This morning, I had to swerve unexpectedly
to avoid fresh road kill – a humungous rat
staining the tar red on the narrow road
between the army camp and graveyard
just after the intersection of Miller
Sometimes the surprise is an unattended child
too close to the road during the daily drop-off grind
Sometimes it’s bricks or stones thrown from a bridge
for perverted pleasure or criminal intent!
Sometimes, it’s a tiny Myna darting dangerously
close to tyres. Why? Why do they do that?
I’ve since noticed that there always seems to be
another on the verge, witnessing this so-called bravery
and concluded that it’s some kind
of adapted urban courting ritual!
I delight at how adaptive we all are
doing our daily Urban Dance!
Adiela Akoo is an emerging South African poet. Her debut collection, Lost in a Quatrain, was First Runner Up for poetry in the SAIP Awards 2021. She was nominated as one of the top 7 ‘Most Promising Literary Influencers’ in the GBC Awards 2020 and her writing has been anthologized in publications across the world. She is the founder and editor of the new literary journal, The Quilled Ink Review. Visit her website to find out more.