When I was least happy in life
my daughter led me across the road
to a neighbour whom I did not know
with the purpose of a toddler
who does not see gates and fences
but the ducks and puppies
on the other side.
You spoke to me in the same low murmuring tones
you used for lame horses and bilious dogs.
Crops, flowers and poultry were our theme:
you made me tea and wiped the counter,
you said ‘Foeitog’ and ‘I don’t hope so.’
You told me I was beautiful,
In the courtly way of an old man.
One day when it rained
you phoned from your side and said
‘I’m sending some ducks for Beatrix’
̶ you always called her ‘Beatrix’
out the window we saw them,
in the way of ducks
when directed by Oom Piet.
You moved and I moved, but one thing stays:
the sense of a rescue, somehow being saved.
About this poem
This poem, representing South Africa, is part of The Written World – our collaboration with BBC radio to broadcast a poem from every single nation competing in London 2012.