Upturned jam buckets
formed a ring where the girls would sit in silence.
Sand was damp, or caked with
Broken glass, rusty spoons, buttons, cigarette ends.
Space, behind the hostel, where we
punished dirtiness; beatings,
If the children disappeared, they were
“washing cloth-es”; no one asked
why Melka Timi sat alone.
She buried nothing. No marks
on her clean-scrubbed skin.
Otjiwarango, Lüderitz, Botswana – The world
offered – Katima, Swakop, Rundu –
greasy packets from Ocean’s Take-home –
Ai-Ais, Keetmans, Grootfontein –
laundry bags, chicken wings. Squeezed
next to a mother and three children. “God
is our father” on the window.
Uis, Tsumeb, Opuwo – Opuwo? Yes,
my friend, kom ons gaan. Kom, Opuwo.
with hanging breasts, ochre skin.
Crossed Khomas highlands. Warthogs knelt by the roadside.
Kilometres of fence round Etosha, the lone giraffe.
In Outjo, a bakery
reserved for whites. Okahandja,
biltong sellers in swarms of flies.
Woman faints near Sesfontein. Minister
dies in Omaruru: newspapers
folded into hats.
Hymns on loop all the way to Khorixas,
schoolbells in Otjikondo, at Teufelsbach
a stark toddler watched.
What faith are you,
the mother asked. Tallied roadsigns. Somebody’d bought fish,
the man with the suitcase full of hats
got out, the woman with ochre skin. The children
fought secretly. We didn’t know
how to look.
Smile: tourists think this
a foreigner’s home.
hard faces, too-wide
tensed to run, searching
one hand on false wallet.
The woman selling mielies from a sooty brazier
In Little Gujarat,
noise stagnates to fug. Food,
clotting in vats, steam
sticks on doors, prints of gods. The other
client sprawls, bare arms, you
sweat. Stare into the window,
[Jamie Osborn is a 2nd year English Undergraduate at Clare College, Cambridge, where he is also chair of Cambridge Student PEN. He is poetry editor for the international arts and literary magazine The Missing Slate. He is working on a sequence of poems based on his time as a teacher in Namibia. Poems from the sequence have been featured in The Mays Anthology 2014, and won second place in the Poetry Book Society National Student competition 2014.]
Copyright © 2015 by Jamie Osborn, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.