Two new poems by Fiona Zerbst

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents previously unpublished poetry by Fiona Zerbst.



She imagines her future in this broken house,
the roof just holding as hail shears down.

The borehole’s covered and the pillars break
to rubble as water leaks away like light.

Still, she imagines, it will get better.
Animals will pass and the silence will heal.

In a place where the river should start but doesn’t,
she lies down close to the soil, where the heat

can be absorbed and then outwaited.
Low stars settle, fat as ticks on her hands.


The Townhouse

Home from work, with winter’s early
evening cold already frosting
breath, her father said, ‘Come on,
let’s take a walk.’ On the long
suburban block they started out
towards factories and open veld,
blackjacks leaping onto their socks
from clumps of grass, the cosmos turning
small magenta faces to them
as they passed faint wraiths of trees.
They talked a lot—philosophy—
and she would tell him all about
the hell of school. Walking fast,
they always cut across the evening’s
early dark and made it home
before the streetlights flickered on.
Her mother served them vegetable
soup with oven-toasted bread,
and while she did her homework
her parents chatted.
                                      Now all she has
are memories of the solemn hours
of childhood spent as one of three
(her siblings had long left the house),
in a townhouse in the open veld
surrounded by the growing world
of mine dumps, wire, death and fear
but, all the same, a sanctuary.


Previously unpublished, © Fiona Zerbst

  • Fiona Zerbst has run her own writing and editing business for nine years. She is currently enrolled for a DLitt (Creative Writing) at the University of Pretoria. She has had four volumes of poetry published to date: Parting Shots (Carrefour Press, 1991), The Small Zone (Snailpress, 1995), Time and Again (UCT Younger Poets Series No. 1/Snailpress, 2002) and Oleander (Modjaji Books, 2009).
Image: Kyle Gregory Devaras/Unsplash

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *