2 poems: tombstone dues, vanitas
I woke up at nine but stayed in bed
until after eleven
on the morning of
The Beginning Of The End.
I did not know it then
I was thinking about my baby,
how far away she was.
Then the phone rang, Big Al on the line
With a stolen car he wanted to sell me.
Thanks Al but I’m not buying.
Then the phone rang again,
Eugene on the line with a stolen computer he
wanted to sell me.
Thanks Gene, but I’m not buying.
All I really wanted to buy was a
Tombstone for my dead dad’s grave.
Nobody in Joburg had a stolen
Tombstone to sell me.
Mannie The Kishke did some calls,
got me the cheapest deal on a brand new Tombstone.
I didn’t bother showering, walked slowly
down to Four Ways Mall in socks and sandals.
Deposited R4261,44 into Mannie’s account
Filled in the depositor’s name and/or reference
With the Tombstone Dues.
By now it was after twelve, Yahoo was down
so I walked along Granite Road up to the Spa,
turned right into Uranium. Stopped in at Exit
Redemption where Bonnie Prince Billy gave me a Coke
for free. Then I footed it back through to
Fourways Crossing, caught Boxcar Willie’s
eye at the escalator. He was looking for work
but I hadn’t any. Gave him two rand.
There was the smell of veld fire in the air,
the sound of sirens. I carried on walking.
Round the corner at the Pine Slopes Spa
there’s Blind Willie Johnson again. This time
he’s got a number to call for work
depressionist painting. No phone to call on.
His buddies in a throng, milling around.
I said, c’mon, let’s go phone at the BP.
When we got to the BP I broke a twenty,
phoned Anne Boleyn with my best voice on;
told her Willie Wonka was reliable.
She said she’d give him R60 a day for diverse
painting and odd jobsing. Then the five of us
went for a celebration at Colonel Saunders’
Drive-Thru Funeral parlour.
It was Willie Bobo and Harrison Ford
and Frank Harris and S’Busiso the Zulu and me.
I took their names down in my little black book
where I keep all the information for the Big Guy.
Then I heard a laugh from the table adjacent.
Sweet voice from heaven said
“take my name too.”
Her name was Emma.
She hadn’t read Jane Austen yet,
but she’d seen the movie.
It must have been 2:30pm when we met.
Her mother came to fetch her at three.
I left Kentucky, waved goodbye to Willie,
Harris, Frank and S’Busiso the Zulu.
Got a call from Mannie The Knuckle
“Thanks for the money.”
Then he said,
I looked at my clock.
It was three fifteen, Joburg local time.
I was glad I didn’t have a tv.
I slept for a while.
Got up at five.
Walked back to the Spa
bought a bottle of Simonsvlei Shiraz,
drank it until it was empty.
Started a fire with scraps of furniture.
Listened to the radio.
Got a call from my baby in Boston.
She was crying.
“Whole world is busy killing and dying.”
Called her back,
told her she had a man she could rely on.
It’s funny how everything banal takes on
when the world’s about to end.
I sat down and typed this story.
Hey Big Guy,
don’t forget I’ve paid my Tombstone Dues.
Got the slip to prove it.
I was born at 2am
On the morning of 9 march 1964
In the South Rand Hospital in Johannesburg
I weighed 10 and a half pounds
And had club feet
Which were operated on when I was eight days old
As was my penis
Which had the front part lopped off
With a razor blade
In order to prevent me