Here is Shepstone Road, and here is the vinegar that runs from your mouth.
Here is your black family car and your father idling in the front seat.
Here is his broken elbow from his recent fall, the gravel still under his skin.
Here again is the apple you ate this morning when you thought you’d be OK.
Here it is again! It looks like lemon pith, swimming in milk on the tarmac, yes:
here is the inside of you pooling and gliding into the gutter.
Here is the sky, and here is cumulus, and you are small in this empty carapace of this
here city on the bay, encrusted like fungus on a toe, cancer on a tongue and retching.
Here is the vagrant attracted, asking you for change while you divine water again.
Here is your soon to be wife, rubbing your back and telling him to please go away please.
Here he comes closer again and even he laughs as you yawn water again.
Here again is the shame, Nick, here again is the shame.
God, God, God, it always comes back to this. You picture yourself dispensing wisdom
to a younger version of yourself; is it you at fourteen or your unborn son?
If you have to sit in a strange shower an hour before a reading, praying
I am OK, I am OK, I am, chances are that you’re not what you’re saying.
When I was young a great-auntie told me the history of how her cousin died
drinking bottles of vinegar at night. The cupboards were bare. They’d run out of wine.
I remember this wrong, probably, so I pause in telling it, in sharing shame
that’s not mine, although that shame is mine: the picture’s the same, what differs is the frame.
It’s bad faith to treat family stories as apocrypha, to bend them to your whim.
History isn’t just what is remembered – things happened regardless of your knowing,
and they scar themselves on you as death did your heart, as the acid does your gullet,
as nail does oak when they write the myth on basement beams in dark Wood Street then rot
in the same cemetery. You can trace the lines between graves like the boughs of trees.
There’s your grandfather, and there’s his dad. These teeth are hungry, you see. They wait for me.
© Nick Mulgrew
Nick Mulgrew is a Ph.D student at the University of Dundee. He is the author of two collections of short stories, The First Law of Sadness (Winner of the 2018 Nadine Gordimer Award) and Stations (Longlisted for the 2017 Edge Hill) and the myth of this is that we’re all in this together (2015). Nick is also publishing director of uHlanga, a poetry press based in Cape Town, South Africa.