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  • In sunlight the neighbourhood rests easy

    cleaning ladies sit on scraps of cardboard and newspaper
    they crochet and gossip
    stop when I say Dumela and Sawubona
    smile behind their hands
    then laugh
    prompt me when I stutter
    unable to remember how the formal greetings go
    in Sotho and Zulu

    at noon gardeners and labourers huddle to share a meal
    dipping scraps of meat and sauce in a heap of mealie meal

    pods of walkers puff by
    dogs strut their humans

    Yes, in the sunlight the neighbourhood rests easy

    But when the last glow fades
    when the broken chain of streetlights
    cast intermittent pools of yellowing light
    when shadows loom
    and small sounds echo
    when silence conspires to conceal
    then the neighbourhood clenches
    then footsteps hurry quick
    past gate and wall

    Working late
    I ache to be off and away
    so I slip through the gate and into the growing silence
    to go walking
    through the evening’s chill embrace
    along neighbourhood streets
    gone watchful still

    in the darkest stretches
    I stop
    look up
    past the long arc of fire
    spreading orange and savage
    through the brown and winter-dry grasses on the hill
    to the stars
    so cold and clear
    Southern constellations
    after all these years
    still unfamiliar
    random markings on the page of night

    then I wonder
    wonder where and how and when
    in the empty street
    I turn and turn
    questing for home
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