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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to

This poem is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

Three Poems Fred D'Aguiar

Martial Art

Plants two bare feet
Three-feet apart
Knees slightly bent

One hand held away
From the body seems
About to pick fruit

Chest high the way
The fingers spread
Curl and linger

The other hand
Waits its turn
Tucked at the waist

The head faces
That fruit tree
But the eyes

Widen to swallow
All they can take in
Blind spots as well

If you watched
The hand about
To pick fruit

You missed the one
Tucked at the waist
Just as you would

Miss a rattler's
Strike if all you
Saw was what you

Heard and could do
Nothing but see

The Barber-Green

As if licked with a coat of fresh paint
from a new season in a creeping forest knitted close
bright against the background of red sand road
bigger than a dump truck and matching in bulk
any grumbling combine harvester anyday
adrift in its inches-crawl and feed
on pot-holes and sand and stones
followed by a crew tied to it or so
they seemed the way they kept near
yet maintained a healthy out-of-swipe's-way
distance from it
                    made us reach for stones
fill our pockets and load both hands
and pelt the thing when it drew near
the house believing it could turn off
the road and bulldoze our house
garden and guinep tree then keep going
deep into the coconut grove
inching its way over all we knew
for what we did not know

this new smooth black bitumen
its fragrance of sweat and goodness
how a marble rolled on it kept going
propelled by tarmac and cars
careened off bends in the road
as the only means of stopping
unless one met another car head on
how the donkey with new shoes
lost its footing and simply sat
in the road attempting with pursed lips
to graze on crushed stones mixed with tar


for this story a verandah
at the top of eighteen steps
each with a gap underneath
that charts the climb up

if not for the banister I hold
for dear life I might not
make that ascent just
because of the ladder

made of air hoisted over
the yard and above the paling
fence around yard and Guinep
tree a fixture of every yard

until air builds on air
in my head and makes it swim
so I hold on white-knuckled
barely able to trust one

foot put before another
till steps run out for boards
with no gaps dust cannot
fill or a rug or lamp-stand

the verandah closed in
all sides but the end down
those stairs and walled
chest high so I look

over and my head stays
clear with my body
braced against all that
timber lashed together

for safe keep of children
by the time the story begins
I lean on a post
shut my eyes and float

down that ladder of air
to the top of the Guinep
tree and then the tip
of palings for a soft

landing on grass worn
brown by our heels
or else way up till I
drop off this world

and have to be borne
away by an adult
to my mattress
kingdom in the stars

This poem is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
Further Reading: - Fred D'Aguiar Review of... (1)
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