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August Debut

Issue 2; October/November


Falling from Sleep


Mark Espin

Mark Espin was born in Cape Town in 1964. He has had poems, reviews and essays published in some South African literary magazines, newspapers and anthologies. His first volume of poems, Falling from Sleep, was published by Botsotso Publishing (Johannesburg) in 2007.

 Four Poems


Some days I drive back from Gugulethu
and reach the railway bridge at the time
when the setting sun tumbles over the earth
and emits fractured light that bewilders
my vision through the windscreen
as I drive on in this moment, in the twilight,
as nebulous figures rush across the road
and outlines of vehicles come straight at me.

It is in this haze that I recognise
Beauty without the surname, without the proper life
lived on the other side of the line, as if she existed
only in the inconclusive, staggered memory of my youth,
washing clothes with green Sunlight soap,
dusting with the orange cloth, hanging the washing
on the makeshift line with bland wooden pegs,
while my mother washed the dishes, drank tea
with three sugars, and broke butter-rich
shortbread biscuits over her empty cup.

In the fading light of the day
I see Beauty walking towards me
on her way home and swerve away
just in time to avoid the oncoming bus.


She inhabits the city and catches a glimpse
of herself each morning as the adjacent glass
reveals her, in an evocative, strident pose. She
finds her isolation in the public places,
merges into the multitudes, becomes anonymous.

She withdraws into the diversionary dictates of fiction,
wanders aimlessly along self-effacing streets,
fashions duplicitous villanelles in her head,
while acknowledging the insinuations of clichés.

A couple passes by. Their devotion to each other
burns like the end of the woman’s cigarette
that radiates in the clench of her lips,
smoulders in the retreating arc of her arm
as they recede in the road’s linear vista,
are swept away in the waves of nimbus cloud
that drifts over all of us in the benign, indifferent sky.

She leaves the city behind, crosses the suspension bridge
at the base of the pass, accelerates past long-haul trucks
and the static vegetation, abandons her self
in the spectrum of the rear-view mirror.


The echo of versatile tongues
bursts across the vista of hills.
Arrogant young men in fashionable dress
hold séances with terror,
detail their accomplishments
with the pornography of dead eyes,
sun themselves in the glory
of fraternal love;
an extenuating circumstance
in this rage that burns.

Light incinerates the page;
the charred remains disintegrate
as you frantically attempt to retrieve
the manifestos of the valiant.

Forgotten men walk the highways,
barter with herbs gathered from the fields,
vaguely recall their language;
their melodies of the moon and the mantis,
in the inebriated sunlight of the afternoon.

The words mirage in the haze, but fade,
being damned forever for its crumbling
from the cursings of the master.


Deceit of pigmentation refracts
through translucence of epidermis,
and truths burnish the veneer of bigotry
which has been layered around the heart.

Memory is bleached within clogged arteries.

The body is cold, a peninsula of granite
entombed beneath a crust of denials.

The vigilant ear censures the tongue’s indented consonants;
and a layer of cloud disintegrates over summit of Lion’s Head,
fails to console sodden bones of waifs who press their flesh
against the stark edges of concrete.

The metropolitan throng watches intently,
sighs with the gravity of fatigue.
Storm wind bends their backs as they lean
against the muscular gusts; avoid the glare of late afternoon sun
which snares a seam of errant smog
and explodes it into a momentary scarlet.

The light, however, is expedient; selects each tableau
of changing shadow in the advancing darkness,
and finally collapses into monochrome of avarice.

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