Category Archives: Poetry

El Tres de Mayo – a poem by Phil Vernon

Read by Paksie Vernon

Food medicine for them


They came from Honeydew on Sundays
farm people on a lift
they brought children
with silent cries, mouths open like birds.
They brought malnutrition, two kinds:
marasmus, and kwashiorkor
known for turning hair red.
Sparse hair and bloodless gums.
Protruding stomachs.
They came to be scolded
‘you’re so fat, feed your child.’
Mute, not explaining that pap can feed an adult
but a child needs protein to hold the body
from leaking into legs, swollen, discoloured.
They brought marasmic babies
who stopped eating small,
had to be coddled to eat.
They came for the prescription:
Pronutro in the morning; mince, vegetables for lunch
and supper. they got better, slowly
depressed babies with large black
dead eyes waking up, showing interest in
waiting for that lift to bring mother.
Sometimes for six months, waiting.

(pap: mealie meal porridge)

A retired nurse, Cornelia Smith Fick was editor of a primary health care magazine and a writer for Takalani Sesame (radio and TV). Her poems and short stories are in Itch, Botsotso, Fractured poetics: a poetry anthology, Soho Square V, Bloomsbury, To breathe into another voice, a poetry/jazz anthology, Poetry Potion, Spelk, New Contrast and Atlanta Review. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of the Western Cape.

Dalí Eating Sea Urchins


Windfalls (you’d think) from a marine sweet chestnut,
their spines still slowly quiver.
He finds scissors. Digs in

cutting a circle through each unresisting
anus, flips off the round of shell
like the lid of a jar. Snaps the rest

in two as he might a peeled orange.
Five glistening lobes in each half, nestling
in a puddle of dark brine. He drains

and rinses them, scoops out
ten mouthfuls of sex – salt cream
dissolving on his tongue –

licks his fingers slow and thorough,
tasting the creature’s final throb, seasoned
with guilt: the sweeter for that.

‘Dalí Eating Sea Urchins’ by A.C. Clarke won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2020) judged by Terry Jones.