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To the City


Liam Kruger is a 24-year-old writer and student living in Cape Town South Africa. This poem is about some time he spent in Istanbul, and it has a whole new resonance this week, with the protests of Taksim Square. Liam is also a regular Mahala contributor.

To The City

Sun-blasted and puddling in hungover afterglow,
I dangle limbs over a warmed balcony to watch
A moustached florist lingering in his dusting
To tease kittens with his broom, or perch
By neon storefront to take twenty year’s tea
With the barber next door, behind the fish market
On Sahme Sokak, a name I find new ways to butcher
Daily. Offal sneaks in behind the stink of construction

And does me harm; I hasten northwards, face shattered,
To cool heels at the flood-lines the flow of money has left
Moving through this place, evaporating
Around houses hollowed by old fires and bad times
Not wholly past. A dog bites at its patchwork flank
And the street-beaten man beside it bites at his nails,
Between trying to sell me batteries and sharing
Two jokes weakly with a greengrocer.
I bite my nails too.

They tell me not to come here at night,
Forgetting the daylit dangers; the firebombed
Pharmacy with a floor constellated by glass,
Or the calls to prayer that go unanswered,
Or the women above, congealed by their window-sills,
Or the trains that don’t go by here any more.All I have to do is turn

Around, and go as I came; the cracked stone
Neighourhood will rush in to fill the void in my wake,
Unsurprised at my retreating back, and I can point
A camera at a square that was a cemetery that was
A garden that was a field of battle. All ruins used?to be something else, once.

Two kids run by, and I am invisible. Mothers or aunts
Look on; making some kind of life here on cobblestones
Older than my name. They may look at this street,
And see more of what could have been than what is,
But neither view includes me.I am a diver seeing how deep
I can go before air,
A child extending the number of blocks
I can run away from home before taking fright
And turning back. A tourist. I couldn’t live in this place.
It is not hard to find ruins here.

*For more on Liam Kruger and other Pan-African poets please visit Badilisha Poetry X-change, produced by the Africa Centre.

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