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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 36 — Ron Singer

Ron Singer

Two South Africa Poems

1. In Westcliff Flats

In Westcliff Flats,

a poor township,

I found, at last,

a quiet, peaceful sleep,

hard to come by

in Fortress South Africa.

Perhaps, the dogs

had all been eaten.

2. The Poor Live Off Our Garbage.

In New York,

they collect empties,


—and bottle—

a nickel a pop.

In South Africa,

young men glide up

to stopped cars,

bearing garbage bags,

sagging, wrinkled,

all the air let out.

In the mendicant position,

“Half a rand,”

they ask (seven cents),

“a quarter, anything.”

If you have no trash

(or prefer to litter),

“Half a buck, please, Sir,

for bread? I beg.”

[“Buck” is Sousth African slang for “rand.” I wrote these poems after spending seven weeks in Botswana and South Africa.]

Copyright © 2010 by Ron Singer.

Morning Song

It’s God’s—no, our—morning, calm and clear

as the cowbells in a nearby field

newly converted to pasture.

Crickets, too, chirp in the bushes

beside the barn, winging continuo

to the two-part harmony of the bells.

A woodpecker tap-taps pneumatically,

not to mention the big sardonic jay,

droning seaplane, and soughing of the wind.

When I stop listening, someone, somehow,

changes the music. Unaccompanied

now, the cowbells clang continuously:

Easter Sunday, twenty-four seven.

Then, a raven plucks at my sleeve.

Walk past the barn down a winding path

recently bush hogged, skirting the woods,

forking toward the horizon. Turn left,

and you’ll reach a cow pond, double-headed,

joined at the neck, muddy and round.

You might scare the jay into heavy flight,

as I did today on my way to the pond.

Though the water is shallow (comically so,

a pond made for belly flops or laughs),

you can, if you like, imagine Ophelia

drowning herself, her weeds among weeds.

The dappled play of light and shadow

remains, as always, Pre-Raphaelite,

unsanctified. Listen: her song.

Copyright © 2010 by Ron Singer.

A Front with Attitude

At nine last night, a front with attitude

came through. It got in our faces,

then turned its back. The heralding wind

of that first appearance was strong and cold.

“You’re in for it now,” it seemed to sneer.

But then it hung a one-eighty toward home.

“Well, that was quick,” we said, sighing,

sagging, in the still hot humidity.

Minutes later it returned to the scene,

this time from a different direction,

a bit to the north of that first short blast

—a small change of attitude, you might say.

This time, too, it hammered the land with rain,

and soon enough it added kettle drums.

In what seemed moments, it was on us,

a raucous concert, light show, music both,

its venue the venerable maple tree

right outside the upstairs window,

a tree that, if it fell, they said,

would fall the other way. Well, it didn’t

fall, after all, despite the fact

that our uninvited guest stuck around for hours.

“Say ‘Uncle,’ ” it finally jeered.

Well, of course we did, so it went its way,

laughing, whistling through the woods,

across the road to a neighbor mountain range

for another round of the echoing game.

This was, I say, a front with attitude,

and had it been any child of mine,

I’d have sent it straight up to its room.

But if in fact this front has family,

I hate to think what they are like.

Copyright © 2010 by Ron Singer.


Poems by Ron Singer have previously appeared in alba, Borderlands: The Texas Poetry Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Contemporary Rhyme, elimae, Evergreen Review, Gander Press Review, Great Works, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, New Works Review (featured poet, Fall 2008), Poetry Midwest, Puckerbrush Review, right hand pointing, Waterways, The Windsor Review, and Word Riot. Several of his poems have been set to music, and three are included in the award-winning 2009 anthology, Poetic Voices Without Borders 2 (Gival Press). To date, Singer has also published two books: a chapbook, A Voice for My Grandmother (Ten Penny Players/bardpress, 2007)and an e-book of three long stories, The Second Kingdom (Cantarabooks, March 2009).

Singer has just returned from the first of three trips to Africa, where he was working on a book of interviews with pro-democracy activists (Africa World Press/Red Sea Press). While he was in Durban, South Africa, he participated in the March 12 commemoration of the life and work of poet/activist Dennis Brutus.

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