Two poems by Nick Mulgrew

The JRB presents new poetry by Nick Mulgrew.


Siam, in some other place

Still the cane waves on the hills like an ocean in swell,
and still the smoke rises from somewhere far behind them.

In some other place it is not a pyre.
Siam, I am sorry that it is not here.

In the same place the children still stand by the circle.
In some other place this wouldn’t have to be written.

A journalist in uMlazi

He was a journalist for ten years. During his training,
he was sent to uMlazi D Section. It was raining.
With mentor and broken Zulu he searched on the roadside
for anyone who knew of a girl who had been raped
by a man in the dark in a bush by the path by the stream.

He couldn’t believe he would find that girl. He’d had a dream
his work might be meaningful; but there might be no meaning
in the diagonal world of green and mist and keening
people, who stared at him like the interloper he was.
Hubristic boy, stunned sun-god caught with his ear in the conch.

The first person he spoke to, though, stood right next to the girl.
The second person he spoke to was the girl. But which girl?
the girl asked. There were five girls, in fact, with eight-ball eyes each,
each wandering this neighbourhood in their mauve matric hoodies.
They’d each been attacked on their way home from extra classes.

She took a maze of paths, showed him the dent in the grasses.
Yes, this is where it happened, she said, unable to blink
away tears from swelling, and welling she began to shrink
within herself. The journalist nodded, wrote in shorthand;
in his best impression of someone who could understand.

The girl said she knew who he was. They all knew who he was.
Yes, he’d raped at least five girls her age. They knew who he was.
She had told laughing policewomen. They knew who he was.
The journalist asked, therefore, if could he write who he was.
No—due to legal reasons, he would not write who he was.

He was a journalist for ten years. This was his first day.
His mother picked him up from work; the next she did the same.

© Previously unpublished, Nick Mulgrew, 2021.

  • Nick Mulgrew was born in Durban in 1990, and currently lives in Edinburgh, where he is a PhD student at the University of Dundee. He is the director of uHlanga, a poetry press, and the author of four books. His first novel, A Hibiscus Coast, was published earlier this year in South Africa by Karavan Press.
Header image: Alejandro/Unsplash

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

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