Tuesday 23 September 2014



When you were lying on the white sand,

a rock under your head, and smiling,

(circled by dead shells), I came to you

and you said, reaching to take my hand,

‘Lie down.’ So for a time we lay

warm on the sand, talking and smoking,

easy; while the grovelling sea behind

sucked at the rocks and measured the day.

Lightly I fell asleep then, and fell

into a cavernous dream of falling.

It was all the cave-myths, it was all

the myths of tunnel or tower or well —

Alice’s rabbit-hole into the ground,

or the path of Orpheus: a spiral staircase

to hell, furnished with danger and doubt.

Stumbling, I suddenly woke; and found

water about me. My hair was wet,

and you were lying on the grey sand

waiting for the lapping tide to take me:

watching, and lighting a cigarette.

This is a wonderful poem but painful. When I read it I felt cold with a shock of acknowledgement. I had to hide from myself what it meant to me.

Thursday 3 April 2014



Blackened, I am skinned with tar-paper.

Tough, I am crazed like shattered glass.

Castaway, I am rusted iron, cast out.

Outlaw, I inherit the Badlands.

The bitter gourd is what I eat,

The blood of snakes is what I drink

Empty, I am soulless.

You do not expect to find my heart

Not even with your foot

Not even under your boot.

I am the half-child you will not let be.

I am Reproach.

I am the lover who knows you in part

I know you wholly but only in part

I know you are the bad good man

I know you are the good bad man

I know you and saw your guts crawl with fear

I know you and felt the weight of your bones cruelty

I love what I know I cannot love what I do not know

Therefore am I bruise-blackened with knowing and love

But you don't see my heart.

You see only my crazy skin.

18,10.2012 Labatut

Saturday 29 March 2014



First is time.

Then a spatter of white

lichen like bird droppings

dotted on the hot black lava rocks.

In more time

Always time

The lichen curls and colours

coalesces, spreads slow and greedy,

silver, yellow, green and gold.

There is time.

Always more time

Thick stems, waxy leaves,

moist-bodied survival systems,

will shrink and hide and wait.

Again there is time.

Always time. More time

A dome of delicate Fibonacci sticks

netted over a tenacious lace of roots

retains a green oval leaf and a tiny yellow star.

In time it will be a green half sphere covered with faint blossom.

There is more time

Always time and then more time.

The silky, insidious grasses lie down humbly

ground-pressed by wind, seeded heads nodding, nodding.

Grass is life for humans who have so little time.

Sun-blackened, broken-backed by the meagre harvest,

their empty stomachs rage and ache. Soon they will be without time.

As for man, his days are as grass: As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.”

For a time.

Ruth Hartley Lanzarote March 2014

Wednesday 26 March 2014



Small cones of flesh

beached on the sand.

The colours of clay

sun-fried, sun-dried,

raw umber, raw red,

burnt ochre, burnt orange,

brown and carbonised black.

Gut chambers

rumble, bubble,

protest, threaten,

vent shit-sticky lava

in white bathroom craters.

Smoked discs on top

cover eyes and brain

that marvel and see,

want to know more,

understand to care.

Small cones of flesh

asleep on an volcano.

It stood up and shuddered,

stopped life with a shrug.

It has no feelings,

no sense of its power,

it does not mind or watch

when we explode and burn.

Monday 24 March 2014



An ocean of black water

deep and world-wide,

its edges tear into

a thin white frill.

Black lava-dust hills

rise up and over

a white scum of houses

at the water's edge.

Birds skimming waves

spin on a wing-tip

from white to black

then black to white

stitching the sea's hem.

White sails curve

half of a parenthesis

hollowed by black winds

out of an empty sky.

So much dark, deep eternity,

such a little edge of life,

the fragile mind clings,

twists and breaks.

Friday 21 February 2014



They folded the old man up .

and put him away in a box.

They held the lid down

with the weight of their prayers,

and swept out his dreams with the dust.

He remains inside books on the shelf,

interleaved and in marginal notes.

In sticky-taped folders his photos are silent.

His stories just paper

that blows down the street.

The old man has been put away in a box.


Is it best to be forgotten than to be showcased and packaged

into relics bought with blood and sold for gold?

Is it best to be gone from the bankrupt world?


We racket on noisily, choking up the bright smiling space

with peeps and clicks as we grab and grub at the moving ghost.

With our plastic and silicone tricks and cons,

we constrict and construct, devise our devices,

and vie to own the dead hero's fled spirit

to know he blessed us lesser and more mortal souls.


For twenty-seven years

they folded my hero up.

They slotted him through bars of iron

and cemented over the cell.

Danger, danger, danger clanged the gates and bells.


I had seen that before.

The white skull of the pulped dog,

frothing at the red on its halo of mad stones.

The crushed snake staring with flat tired eyes

at its own curving skinless purple flesh under a brick.

He left us to our hissing silence

to peep through hooded eyes

Don't think, don't speak, don't see.


From the white death I was bequeathed I wanted a black angel to save me but
he was not an angel, just a man, and mercy was buried with him on Robben Island, under the grey limestone dust.


I was angry with him for turning to the dark side

which was where they said he belonged,

which they said, was stating the obvious.

They said he was mad, bad, and red.

He wanted us dead, they said.

He hadn't saved us from ourselves by riding in

on a storm-horse of purity and purpose.

A laundering hero to whiten us whites

and bleach out our sins.

Somebody better than us

That's what I needed.




He chose to be what they said.

Terror, black, black terror.

I was angry with him for leaving me

alone in a world without anything good.


Then we forgot.


We forgot him.

We forgot all about him.

We lived on only in his memory.

We were dead to hope

and to our ideal of freedom.


Then Mandela walked out and back with his hand raised.

He stood up.

He came out of the box.





Monday 3 February 2014


My friends won't know me.

I am about to shed a skin and go through changes.

For one thing, I shall be taller and newer

(which in itself is amazing!)

and for another, little bits of me

will have shiny corners and gleam

unexpectedly, refracting strange lights.

Mostly, at first, my awkward angles

will show through more pronouncedly.

Instead of gnawing my knuckles, biting my nails,

and rubbing my eyes half-asleep,

I shall tear off whole strips of skin

which will quickly shrivel and blow away,

brittle as a bug's transparent wing.

I must admit that this time around

I had hoped for wing-buds myself.

Instead I have a knob on one shoulder

and on the sixth finger of my left hand

a claw which I keep folded up in my palm.

No doubt I will find them useful

for carrying burdens and climbing mountains

in my next metamorphosis.

However, with every shrug of my shoulders,

a patch of the new me will be apparent.

Soon I will be iridescent -

a veritable Josephine in a skin-coat of many colours.

Though the rainbows won't last for long

and soon darken to the painful lace of tattoos,

I will have my moment of glory

when I stand up straight in an explosion of possibilities

leaving only a little mound of dust and scales at my heels.