Excerpts > Winter 2002

Dina Coe


Softly our guide sets us down
at the last sight, one that squares
with proud spectacles that tours visit:

the park, a Zulu village and its art,
donated by a millionaire.
We breathe freer here,

behind the ornate painting on the door
in a round room where hides
overlap in many patterns,

cream on brown, and brown
on cream, like drifts of fallen
petals from the savannah.

Invitingly they nap the wall and floor,
so that one tourist asks our guide,
Sowetan Eddie, why he left the forest

for an inferno built of bricks.
All baked to be uniform like those
that made our own ghettoes,

like ideal workers in our factories,
she might add. But Eddie does not answer
this question as he has answered all before,

with truth and common sense
(the crudest facts in a low voice,
eyes raised to the barbed-wire fence).

He frowns: the lines around his eyes
cross like barbs cut down
to meet the lines around his mouth

and forge deeper in his bronze,
saying, like the miner's bust in the museum,
that strangers dug an underworld

in the land where he was born.
Eddie lives in Soweto and works
in Johannesburg for the guided tour,

and for us who care to know
where he goes when he crosses back
to his mortal destiny, he shows us.

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