Shining in Brightness, my first book of selected poems, documents the hopeful years of 18 to 30. I hold a special affection for this creative scrapbook. It is a nostalgic artefact of a time period I declared ‘a mystical decade‘.
We ate at Träumerei.
Maybe I ordered a quiche
And he had melted cheese.
Forget this not, my heart:
We lunched at Träumerei.
There shining in brightness
on the table – a glass
four peppermints and the bill.
It is from this poem that my first volume derives its title. In this prosaic moment, in which two people finish a meal at a restaurant, there is also a numinous communion. The objects and the moment between the diners are frozen in time like a still life, or a memento mori. I find it most intriguing that at least eight years passed from the moment of the meal to the poem’s creation. Because I know you’re wondering, the other diner is my Dad. When I was in my late teens and early twenties he would treat me once a month, near his payday, for lunch in Cape Town’s city centre. In the weeks leading up to meal, he would bring home menus from prospective cafés. Pouring over the meal options and discussing the ambience was almost as important as the day itself.
The moment in this poem is based on a vague memory of a meal we had at an Austrian restaurant, Träumerei, which used to operate on St George’s Mall. (At one time it had a sibling restaurant in Franschhoek, a wine route town renowned for its cuisine.) In my memory it is a bright, sunny Cape Town day and we are sitting on the white painted balcony overlooking the mall, a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare. It’s that moment of repose between the end of the meal, the paying of the bill and continuing with the hustle of the afternoon.
My Dad worked as a humble council clerk for the city council. Seldom did he seem to have money for practicalities like shoe repairs, a new suit or the ‘phone bill. In fact, once he spent the household bill money on tickets for all five of us to see a visiting Russian Cossack dance troupe. My mother was not pleased when they cut off the water. But my Dad had a rich poetic spirit, and he found the pennies for lunchtime dates, Saturday coffees and the regular offerings of a single rose or carnation for my mother.
My Dad passed away on the 5th May 2009 after a battle with colon cancer and it is to his memory I dedicate “Shining in Brightness.”
Shining in Brightness my first volume of poetry presents 20 poems selected from twelve years’ worth of writing and two accompanying, explanatory essays. You can preview and purchase it here (via blurb.co.uk)
I tweet regularly about my current food yens – muesli, coffee and London dining – and occasional attempts at improving my German. I’m on Twitter as @BeadedQuill