The burning

For three days we had held hands

watching the forest slowly burn,

spew its secrets of tiny creatures

onto the shoreline:

flycatchers, trogons, nightjars,

scuttling of unwanted lives through the grass,

and the endless fritterings against the air

of tiny insects. And once a boomslang,

its one green side burnt to a crisp,

seemed to stare through us without expression

from a smoking eyepit.

At last you turned

towards and then away from me

as the wind died, your hair

a rope of soot heavy on your throat

and said, ‘come, we have done enough.’


It was the beginning of a silence

maggoted deep inside us.


Though still

we will slot our souls every morning

into the machine and press the digits

which make us work, eat, defecate

smile at those fated to return

into our lives with the force of habit

who want to smile at us. But a gear

somewhere has slipped its ratchet.

We never seem to be alone: naked,

you wear your skin like a costume now

with crotch, hair, nipples painted on;

turn your eyes up show me the whites

each time I enter you.


And our bodies reek dank and strange

with a memory of forests. 

from Love That Is Night (Gecko Poetry, 1998), © Kelwyn Sole 1998, used by permission of the author

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.


Kelwyn Sole

Kelwyn Sole Downloads

1Letter to an artist


2Poem from Botswana






5Woman, trespassing in a garden




7Poem in black and white


8Housing targets


9The burning


10Haghia Sophia






13Your smile is a sudden bird






16He had to come in






19from Cape Town™


20from Vigil


21What the sea brings


22I want what comes after




24Tin roof