Several weeks ago, Alice Pettway took us to the mines of South Africa and the minds of its women as well. Today she shares an African evening with us. A true poet can paint atmosphere with words. What’s more, the poet/artist can be both observer and participant. Here is what that looks like when it is done superbly.

 

After Sunset

Kerosene burns the night and still
Orion fights across the flattened sky,
his figure thick with shy stars,
moth holes eaten in the dark batting
that settles, a cotton weight,
choking the mangoes and sand.

We avoid the night
then embrace it, our breath hot and thick
around our sticky bodies. The leaded air,
swift drug, lures us down where the darkness
wraps wool tendrils around our ankles,
our wrists—not quite a mother’s touch,
not quite a lover’s, but something modern
and swollen and edging on violence.

Our skins slide against each other like fish,
like lightning, the moisture of our efforts
mocking the dry night hanging breathlessly
outside the drape of our mosquito net.
In our town of no lamps,
of shadow bushes and mamba stems,
we are rain makers, curandeiros,
We are magic.

Printed with permission of the poet (includes lines from “The Time of Hunger,” published in The Foundling Review, August 2011)

 

Alice_Pettway_Author_PhotoAlice Pettway’s poetry and prose have appeared in various publications, including The Bitter Oleander, Crab Creek Review, The Connecticut Review, Lullwater Review, Keyhole, Teaching Tolerance, WomenArts Quarterly, and others. Her chapbook, Barbed Wire and Bedclothes, was published in 2009. Alice is a former Lily Peter fellow, Raymond L. Barnes Poetry Award winner, and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. She and her partner, AJ, currently live in Bogotá, Colombia, where she teaches creative writing.

Photo: Valerie Downes

 

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