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  • Why do I love the aloes?

    They are exotic for someone from the north.
    An aloe then was a pale green plant in a pot by the kitchen window
    spiky and patient, waiting to provide relief from burns.
    The odd surprise of the sticky gel inside.

    At the interview for the job in South Africa,
    formal hotel room in Boston,
    thirty floors removed from reality
    dank February greys out the fixed plate glass
    Big Boss 1
    complained about the wrinkles ironed into his crisp white shirts
    before showing us pictures to sell his school.
    He opened a window onto another world
    stiff aloes in ranks
    flame spiked guardians
    spreading wildly twisted arms
    on a rocky hillside
    the sky impossibly blue above
    the earth all vivid reds and browns below.

    That first year, driving north to a bush hotel and a
    5 star game drive introduction to the school,
    the little aloes sprang orange and yellow from the burnt over veld.
    They liked to call it a safari
    but safaris in my mind were
    coffee in chipped enamel mugs
    stars and fire bright
    and beyond the fire's circle of light,
    glowing eyes and quiet footsteps.

    And now, here for more years than I have lived anywhere,
    aoes mark the changing season
    the end of the school year,
    the chill, bright, dry winter days.

    In the park
    their arms offer
    perches for the sunbirds
    when they land to dip their long curved beaks in the flowers.

    The answers to simple questions,
    like cupped hands for water,
    contain our lives.
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