Compassionate leave

  • by Ingrid de Kock, Unlocked: Poems for critical times (Part One), Daverick Citizen, 30 mars 2020

Almost everyone’s on leave,
gone away

to the countryside
in threadbare trucks

to pay respects
in rooms and huts

to watch and pray for dying ones
shrunken under sheets,

to vigils through the night
in closed-off streets

where grandmothers prepare
small and smaller funeral feasts

after truncated prayers
chanted by tired priests

over cardboard caskets
in the deathwatch heat.

Gone to taxi ranks and stations
to wait for information

from billboards, radios,
word of mouth and trumpets in the sky

where ubiquitous hadedas,
unlike Auden’s mute impervious birds

blast their high shofars
over each infected space.

Gosiame carries newborn brother Umpile while standing outside their family house in Johannesburg after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook) L

From Seasonal Fires: New and Selected poems, Umuzi, 2006 DM/ MC/ ML

Suggestion de Myriam Houssay-Holzzschuch