by CORNELIA SMITH FICK
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.
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.
by A.C. CLARKE
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.
by A.C. CLARKE
A woman scoops tea from the week’s ration
into the prewarmed pot as her mother taught her,
settles herself with the morning paper.
Grey bodies strew the page in random heaps:
somewhere in Germany she’s never heard of,
bare ground, black trees. And bodies.
The picture brings to mind that morning after
a Blitz night, when she walked down Regent’s Street,
shopfronts blasted out and mannequins
scattered across the street awkwardly splayed,
and much too thin for life. She turns the page,
sipping her tea. Best not to look too close.
Her daughter leans across the table:
we’re running low on butter coupons.
‘Starvation 1945’ by A.C. Clarke was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2020) judged by Terry Jones.