Loquats

He dwells in a desert rondavel with a dusty garden,
his books, and a loquat tree outside the window
where he reads or watches the pigmented purple
silence of the Great Karoo. The rondavel is clean,
kept by a brown bare-breasted girl who brings him
pap, and coffee, and Castle lager at sunset,
smiling at the hard dirt floor.

By day, heat and silence are vexing. She waits,
a little magisterially, beside his chair at the window.
Today, she pants unwontedly, her breasts at his shoulder.
No hurry. She can wait for the end of Fra Lippo Lippi.

Ja, Evatjie? Her name is little Eve.

Her KhoiSan crinkled eyes squint level with his.
Maybe she’s ochre, not brown. She’s no girl.
Has she children, a husband? She won’t say.
She smells as others smell who work hard
where the sky is hot and stingy with its water,
and who sleep by a fire at night.

Meneer, daar’s ‘n boomslang in die boom.
He interprets to himself. Sir, there’s a tree snake in the tree.
Die loekwartboom?
Ja, meneer. Ek is bang.
Evatjie afraid? He doubts it. He glances at the window,
to please her. He’d have seen a snake in the loquat tree.

She’s brought a bowl of loquats. He didn’t see her
picking loquats.

Her bones are loose, slippery as a cat’s, and as strong.
They suck loquats, waiting for the cold of night.
She takes his seeds, arranging them with hers,
in the bowl. When he misses yellow flecks
of loquat she cleans them in her mouth before
she sets them in their places. Her lips are the color
of loquat seeds.

A Magistrate in the town fifty miles away
owns this land. A messenger from the court comes by,
occasionally, to check. The contract says they may not
eat the loquats, but so far, the Magistrate hasn’t
evicted them.

Dayton, 2012