Poetry Porch: Poetry


The Crossing

by Peter Anderson 

I cross the campus toward familiar buildings:
Popís Café is just over the street.
Then thereís Phineas Court, the student digs
Where Charlie stays
With his cats and crates of beer and books. Beyond,
Towards the city, itís all
Blank white concrete and high-rises,
Hazy blue and dream-like in the distance.
Mild enough: I take it all
For granted. Peace.
An ordinary day. Sleepy,
In winter sunshine,
I go my way.

A hoarse thudding chatter
Grows in the sky. Not very high,
Just clearing the top
Of the nearest building,
A helicopter gunship comes nosing around,
Intent: a piece of heavy machinery bound
For the horizon, and Soweto. Ponderous,
With patches of paint in smears
Of Army brown and Army green,
And a bubble on top
Where the pilot sits
(A man like me? I donít know.
But I can almost see his broad
Relaxed hands manipulating
The controls), and from the belly
Of the pregnant power he rides, the snouts
Of guns. The hammering chopper hovers,
Glutting itself, over the street,
Then pushes on. Its shadow snatches over me,
The sound quite suddenly recedes.
I had wanted to say:
The grass around the fountain,
I see,
Looks gentle, exhausted. Itís
Winter yellow,
Like chips of shredded wood.
And the fountain itself, dry now
Many a day
On account of 
The drought, has two
Little bronze buck
Over a bowl of concrete.
(And so on. Quite simple nothings.)
Instead, with the robot against me
I cross the street.

It closes around me
A river of hot iron.

        Johannesburg, 1986

Copyright © 2000 by Peter Anderson.
Reprinted from Vanishing Ground by Peter Anderson, with the permission of  Quartz Press, Republic of South Africa.