from a crown of sonnets


In Khayelitsha, an urban township of Cape Town, an average of 635 sexual assaults on women travelling to and from toilets was reported each year. . . with total annual costs of $40 million, including medical and legal expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

—William H. Kaplain

Eyes always in the dark see life as prey.
So those afraid to walk at night alone
must try to limit intake in the day.
They do sometimes feel thirsty. Sometimes one
feels hungry, but alive. One sister dead—
raped, strangled, left behind the cinder blocks.
Next morning the police tape’s yellow thread
but no one sees a thing, and no one talks.
And daughters don’t go anymore to schools
in adolescence where there is no wall
erected between eyes and common holes.
They paint the school roof though it has no stall;
I don’t see why. Each human that survives
comes out of us: they’re punished with their lives.



Human remains are sad. Though here we be
in fat and muscle, bone and teeth informed
made up of skin, electric energy.
From matter into matter we’re transformed.
Slow magic, incarnation—food for thought
cellular reproduction, reflecting
how by what we take in, all ways, we’re taught
incessant collecting and rejecting.
Receptacles receive our leftover
toxin, bacteria, and all we’ve spoiled
the ordure flushed away under cover
or treated chemically. This once was coiled
winding intestinal, dark centrepiece—
what makes it go away: a gift of peace.



Chantel Lavoie lives in Kingston, Ontario, where she teaches in the department of English, Culture, and Communication at the Royal Military College of Canada. She has published a book of verse titled Where the Terror Lies (Quattro Books, 2012), as well as academic monograph on eighteenth-century women poets, and is working on a novel about chimney sweeps in that century.

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2 Responses

    • C.B. Anderson

      Foggy, indeed! I never got a sense of where the narrative was going — if it was even going anywhere. I can only guess that the reader is supposed to interpret her nebulous perorations into something close to what she had in mind when she wrote these. I already know how bad things are in South Africa. What I lack is a coherent poetic rendition of the situation.


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