GOOD NEWS FROM SOUTH AFRICA


 
THE LADY MISSIONARY
by Gail Dendy
[94pp, np, Kwela Books, 40 Heerengracht, Cape Town, South Africa]
 

Gail Dendy was recognisably a poet some years ago when I was involved in publishing her first collection in 1993. Things haven't changed with her latest which reads as seductively and as satisfyingly as ever. She continues to do her muse proud and must now be approaching deserved recognition as one of South Africa's leading poets.
 
That said, I would rather quote from two or three poems rather than gabble on about how much I relish her work. So (from '7/7'):
 
       Your face at the door is a trick. I am sure of that.
       You took a journey on the northbound track,
       always so safe, so secure, so mapped.
 
        Now it's all we can bear to enter your room
        with its keyhole the size of your thumb
        and windows the colour of water...
 
         I'd swear you're there with your characteristic
         grin. Do you know the crocuses have arrived as usual?
         They're solid and small and look like broken glass.
 
From 'Forgive':
 
          ...Don't pretend to be poor, dumb, unable
          to speak. Tell me about Paris, Venice.
          Tell me her name. Recite your lines.
 
          Now let's be a little careless. I prune hard, now,
          down to the bulge of the vein. It's easy. See.

         
You might not find me in time. But when you do,
           forgive me my heart's fabulous energy.
 
And finally (alas) from 'Invitation to the Dance' (which is preceded by a quote for Genesis about Lot's wife looking back and turning into a pillar of salt):
 
            ...I wish to enjoy one delicious waltz
            and a sexy rumba. I wish to be eloquent.
            My shoes have the requisite diamonds at their heels.
            My hips are satin. But there is a purple flower
            hidden deep inside my mouth...
 
            Forgiveness is a virtue. A turn of the cheek
            is all that's asked. It's little enough
            for my looking back. Was it a sin? I was afraid.
 
            Now I've stood here for far too long.
            I remember I had an invitation.
            The city glitters with a million lights.
            Please, won't you take me to the dance?

                    Geoffrey Godbert 2007