Girl by featured artist Lora Mathis
My Fathers’ Africa
A picture of my father circa 1968
hands upraised, anticipating
trigger-click, singe of skin,
the long ache of apartheid
slashed across his forehead
like a California faultline.
In our family the men go grey at twenty-five.
They remember scooping up an uncle’s
spilt brains for burial,
sifting through the warm froth
for shotgun pellets.
Or else, the boy
who staged a protest in the schoolyard
and how the flies swarmed on his bleeding face.
They learned to turn away.
From the yeast-reek of hooch on the south wind.
The obscene ballooning of a child’s belly.
A bruise, split lip, acid burn.
The broke-shouldered village girls,
their backs concave, eyes dull as river glass.
A whole generation forgot how to dance,
gulping snatches of Garfunkel and Janis J.
My aunts had portraits taken;
starched white blouses and new leather shoes
which lasted longer than they did.