from a crown of sonnets

I.

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.

 

II.

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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4 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.

      Reply
  1. Erika Behrisch Elce

    In the tradition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, these brave poems make visible a daily struggle that too often goes unnoticed. Not everyone knows “how bad things are in South Africa,” but these poems can begin that conversation. To live without a safe place simply to go to the bathroom is inconceivable to those who haven’t experienced it.

    Reply
    • Monty

      I admire your defence of the above pieces; and when I first read them, I also admired the author’s (seemingly heartfelt) resolve in raising the subject. But it’s the author’s choice of subject you’re defending, Erika, not the poetry.

      Of course the subject deserves recognition (through any medium), and the author has admirably given it recognition above; informing many who read these pages of something which they would’ve been hitherto unaware. And I’m sure that many will sympathise for those women who have to “limit their daily intake”.

      But these pages are used to judge poetry . . as poetry; not to judge the merits of different subject-matters. If a commenter chooses to criticise a poem, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re indifferent to the subject-matter; it simply means that they perceive there to be faults within the poem . . as a poem.

      I personally feel that the above author has a good command of our language, and a natural way with words; and if she afforded a bit more time and consideration to her writing – with regards to making the diction tighter – she could produce decent poetry. I hope she submits again to these pages.

      Reply

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