Easter Moon: Chris Mann

Milky Way Moon

Easter eve on a hillside in a valley, a Valley of a Thousand Hills, it’s western ridge lifting steadily, lifting with the spin of the world through ragged red streaks of cloud up into the darkening, star-specked sky.

Wrapped in a dark brown rug, twitching and grunting, a boy on the hillside dreams in the grass. The jumpy red flames of a thorn-wood fire flicker quick changes of light and shadow on his face, a soil-smudged hand, pushed out from under the rug, lies unfurled by his side.

Young native, citizen and explorer of earth, your howls of frustration and shouts of glee, your scowls and hugs are as frank and primitive as the night through which the planet sails it’s valleys and mountains, it’s animals, plants and seas. Scooping you up, I sense a kinship that stretches back, being after being, down long millennia of bush and grassland, through epochs of ice and rain, to life’s first twitch in primordial brine. You rouse such compassion in me now, you animate my faith, that love involves our beings best, and Christ resurrected is love restored.

Climbing the hill, your small-boned body’s passion for life held in my arms. I crunch across fire-blackened tufts of grass towards the dim white blur of a building on the crest. A backlit, sky-blue curtain flicks aside, a window swings open. Your mother leans across the sill and says,  I’m glad you’re back, it’s late.

I pause on the stoep and watch the valley’s eastern ridge spin slowly down, down into the dark abyss of space. Brightly serene, above the silhouettes of boulders, bush, power-lines, sheds and trees along the rim of our world, a full moon rises silently into sight, it’s rough white shape that of the rock rolled from the entrance to a tomb.

[From ‘Epiphanies’, by Chris Mann, published by The Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, 2017. After 15 years of poverty alleviation work in rural areas, Chris Mann moved with his family to Grahamstown, where he is convenor of Wordfest South Africa, and Professor Emeritus of Poetry at Rhodes University]

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A Letter to an Unborn Child: Chris Mann

Reflection of a candle in the window on a rainy night

Tonight, your mother and I, romantic still, intend to open our star-filled window and in the light of a candle first lit at our wedding, to bring your being, waiting already within us, into fuller life.

Your mother, with forehead smudged, has laboured all day to paint a canvas reality of trees. It fills us with wonder, that we who are used to the sweat of design, the pain of composition and revision, can hope, merely in a flash of joy, to usher in new life, the spark, moist and complex, wriggling in darkness, that’s you.

Being spring, the season is right for such a seeding. May the night’s tranquillity, the glimmering light of the stars, be gifts to cherish in your bones.

And should you ever, growing older, search your origins for the moods, the protein motions that nurtured you, don’t think a share of sorrow, of nightmare, remorse and illness was never, with ecstasy, not also ours.

Our choice, to build a space in which your being, molecule by molecule could emerge, is tinged with trepidation. It rises from a reverence, inchoate yet real, for the shaping spirit that we ourselves are children of.

And when, growing older, you see our imperfections, the frail glasswork of our dreams, remember this: that the night, the stars, this blue-quilted bed were wondrous to your parents.

You were conceived in love.

[From ‘Epiphanies’, by Chris Mann, published by The Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, 2017. After 15 years of poverty alleviation work in rural areas, Chris Mann moved with his family to Grahamstown, where he convenor of Wordfest South Africa, and Professor Emeritus of Poetry at Rhodes University]

A Midlife Testimony: Chris Mann

Chris Mann1

I do not love you anymore.
I used to, when we were young
and words like love were tumbling in our thoughts.’
The scent of jasmine in the streets of spring,
the press of starlight through a sky of leaves
was what such words then meant to me.

But when I track back through the years
and see what we have shared,
the bliss and strain of parenting,
the stress of work and terror at the loss of work,
the illnesses, bereavements and despair,
I reach a truth we thought we knew
but only glimpsed in phantom silhouettes,
that more, much more’s enfolded in love’s youth
than carefree laughter, lingering kisses,
starlight and the scents of spring.

Ah no, my subtle-fingered humorous one,
stepping back a moment from your easel,
your hair tied back, your brush in hand,
oblivious to the ringing of the phone,
I more than love you now –
I cannot bear to wake without your body being near.

And when I recollect your flying curls,
your mulberry-coloured jacket and your black beret,
and see you standing in a midnight doorway once again
where jasmine’s fragrance drifted through the dark
and stars outlined your tilt of head,
your fling of hair, the white camellia of your throat,
that love, if such it be returns,
that wild, sweet, fiery exhilaration storms back
and cloudbursts through my midlife’s shaken heart.