“The Blanket Man” and “Mulberry”
The Blanket Man
He wanders through the twilight
of the suburb. Houselights
glow amid their creaking
trees and smells of cooking
mingle on the winds
as he goes by, a blanket
round his shoulders, walking
roads that only lead
away, beneath the stillness
of a fading sky.
When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops
of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself:
for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite
the host of the Philistines. —2 Sam. 5:24.
Mulberry leaves are gold about my head,
filled with summer light, or flecked with shade
of twigs and other leaves – shimmering gently
round the furrowed trunk that sinks beneath
the sand, its roots extending under grass
as moles and tiny insects tunnel and crawl
and nutrients are drawn towards the leaves
and drifting branches. Doves may settle there,
observing me, and squirrels scurry along
their dappled paths. The tree holds many worlds
beside its own, a multiplicity
on which to dream, in search of understanding:
fruit will swell there, stained with lovers’ blood,
and in the murmurs of the leaves and branches
you may hear the passage of your God
who moves ahead of you against your foes.
Stuart Payne’s first book, Voices from Another Room was published by Crane River and distributed by uHlanga in 2018. He won New Contrast’s National Poetry Contest of 2022 for his poem “Words for Dia!kwain”, and in 2019 had two poems commissioned by AVBOB. He is part of the Off the Wall volunteer group on Zoom and in Cape Town and editorial assistant for Stanzas magazine.