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Trade Winds

(An extract from “Vespa Diaries’)
by Ari Sitas


Hard winter this

-I’ll lend you a 300mm lens for your Clicklcack he said,
only if you fetch me Fresh Snoek for the Braai!
Fair trade
harsh trade winds,
low clouds

Climbing the Mount to reach Kalk Bay Harbour
Through the sheets of rain
wind-lashing rain,
after trucking past hundreds of Khwe ghosts panting up and up the uphill
singing in an unapproved language
Then past the hundreds of Khwe ghosts panting down and down the downhill
singing something quite obviously subversive,
to face the furious surf
to breathe-in the seepage of kelp
to point out the prized dead snoek

Hard town this town
“No fish today”, the sea cracks timber cracks spines
Drowns men
I have some snoek in the freezer at Nordhoek
says the fisherman
quite dead and ready

Relax have some of this sweet Gut-love

3 litres past the fourth box of Autumn Harvest
life gets philosophical:
“There is no synagogue by Silver Mine”
“There was no silver in the mine to justify such
inglorious deaths”

Wrapped fish somewhere in Nordhoek
in three layers of Malema Newsprint
to thaw
And when it thawed
Malema helped to quarantine the stench
and dreamt of the lens and the baobab highways
of the north
where the lion roams,
not just the hapless penguin.

There has to be a place for us –
between the fable and the fact.
Perhaps, Macondo again.
Quite unexplored, somewhere far
the cracked busts of leaders
in an uncommissioned space;
a space of birds, yes. Loud birds.
Even if their tenor shrieks unsettle dawn;
Where even fixing a mosquito net tight is an act of love

Because this country hurts.


A Vespa?
I happen to belong to a community that never tires of testing my limits, of trivialising my quests.
A Vespa!- laughter, guffaws – Get the man a drink!-
You will never get the girl! Give it up!!!
OK: I agree that Vespas are what ducks are to the civilisation of birds.
More of a wader than falcon, cruisers rather than speedsters but you must agree that they are substantial enough not to be confused for speed-bumps by suburban 4X4s.
They are about solidity and balance.
As long as the fierce winds are tail-winds
They do allow their rider a sense of the panorama!
Get real.
A sense of what we could be sharing as a vision.
OK Bishop Tutu take a seat . . .
Zen and the art of motorcycle countenance.
And a freedom to yank the goggles off . . . and you can see properly because the speed that insects fly into your eye does not allow the critters to split your retina.
It is also an anti-imperialist gesture: brings with it less of the American counter-culture and the jingoism of Easy Rider but the cultural finesse of the 1960s Italian black and white movies whose directors’ names- apart from Fellini- escape me.
He will write his Vespa Diaries, how pretentious is that!?
Fellini meets Van der Post!
He wants a woman!
Che in Doornfontein!
I would only do it on a donkey…
A donkey cart…
No, with a rickshaw-wallah pulling
Yes and with a swarm of butterflies forming a halo over the trudging cart . . . pure Rusdhie . . . pure post-modern Bollywood.
No, with a cart, with donkeys and a grand piano on wheels behind . . .
No, walking . . . with a rucksack filled with peanut butter, Bovril, cheese and crackers and an apple your lover kissed into the sack to give you melancholia.
Eat this morons: according to Umberto Eco and Omar Calabrese in their book Cult of Vespa . . .
Umberto Eco?
Umberto Eco yes – Untold numbers of Fakirs in Cantadore outfits strumming guitars enter the room. I have my wits’ total attention.
Umberto Eco!
There are roses, seduction, a sense of some quiet grandeur.
I dropped a name!
Umberto Eco, yes. A whole book on the Vespa!
A semiotic coup-d’etat!
Shut up!
A Vespa?
Not a Vuka?
No, a Vespa.
May the lines on the road keep firm so you do not slip and crack a metaphor.
May the trucks take notice of you.
May drunken and cell-phone chatting teenagers give you some respite.
May dogs respect your pantaloons.
May the badass Kudu not leap into your path at night.
And may the leopard walk off your camp fire.
Come on, be a troo man.


Do troo men ever rhyme?


Troo men don’t rhyme

Troo men don’t swank

They just climb up verses

They crank up the stanzas almost iambic

Their rhythms are lean, their heartbeat lank

Their rhythms are lean and when in trouble…lank
Ngidal’umlilo- taram aram

I also suppose

Troo women don’t scowl

They scoff at the brinjal