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writing – Poems, Pictures & Prose by Saaleha Idrees Bamjee

on if we could see what we carry

In a world of manifest metaphor, we carry our baggage by our sides and on our backs. Into suitcases, hold-alls, carry-ons and duffel bags, we cramp and stuff once significant others, bruises taken as children, rejections suffered at the hands of those more than us, dreams we were slow to claim and the crumbs of daily inadequacies that flake off to line the inseams.

We struggle with our mis-matched luggage; backs stooped, gaits shuffled; into cars, onto busses, taxis, shifting for space around our legs in coffee-shops, cinemas, cubicles at work, restrooms and parks.

Some people’s baggage precede them – taking up too much of your elbow room while others clutch them tightly to their chests, afraid the bones will fall out. We all move around each other in concerted rhythm; this sluggish dance of dragging trunks and lockers, weighted down by chunks of heart, reams of unwritten words; hard-drives of emails we never pushed the button on and what-ifs that clutter in-between.

We see each other for the mules we are and search for some luggage carousel’s re-assuring loop to offload and walk away straight backed; leaving hang-ups and let-downs to circle unclaimed.


There is no elegant, poised way to clutch a crayon. As your fingers fist-wrap around the wax and shoulders hunch instinctively over paper, this world of adult falls away in scales.

The little stub of wax; is now the portkey to the land where imagination startles bright, where friends are forgiven with pinkie-hugs and “I want to be a discover and a explorer and a scientist and a writer and a doctor” is more within grasping distance than ever. “Draw outside the lines, the sky doesn’t have to be blue…” the voices different from the ones that built the scaffolding around you when you signed away your day between 8 and 5.

When the amnesia of adult sets in, and the priorities of living cloud and numb; find a crayon. Hold it.

Lessons from the Lift Club … (part one…in progress)

an attempt at memoir/nostalgic indulgence. crit most definitely welcome.


We were second-hand lions; Hash, Batman and me.That’s what Batman would say, after a long day capped with a handrolled cigarette – cherry tobacco swaddled in a liqourice flavoured Rizzla.
We’d lean against the car, watch the sun slip into Florida lake, spin semantics and swop objectives. Hash would tell how he ran up the stairs at Wartenweiler to give a note to the Library Girl, the one who glided. Batman would laugh then, and I’d think what i’d always think whenever he smiled – gosh he really does look alot like Robert Downey Jr.

We’d ask Hash, “So when’s the wedding?”, because we knew she was The One, like all the others. He’d shrug and squint into the promise of twilight, lost to himself, while Batman and I counted the number of times Hash had handed out his heart at lunchtime.

The war stories we’d tell; threads of loves and losses, each of us carrying enough to tip us over the standard luggage allowance.

And what was I, the third to this pair of odds? Sans car, sans license, the only route to my post-grad validation via these veterans of the Campus Lift Club.

Wearing their fathers’ vintage shirts, way before Hawaiian hibiscus print came back and left in a hurry, they’d sit sometimes on the concrete outside the cafe in Newclare, promising to quit smoking after buying loose Stuyvies and buddy Cokes. I’d nod in earnest interest, trying to learn how to speak Cars. Batman and Hash would laud the merits of angel-eye headlights and colour-coded side mirrors, while I carefully weighed up what this meant in the greater scheme of things.

Such was Lift Club.

shot left, after robot

I miss taking the taxis down Jan Smuts Avenue to the gym.
It doesn’t get anymore real than the dented soccer-stickered metal, the only barrier to you and kissing tar held together by kite string, your legs warmed by pure engine heat and its fumes, oh how i miss the fumes; so strong they slice your tongue into ribbons.
And the passengers, silent squashed faces of static between stops, except for the one man who said the black people he knew never found the time to gym because they were too busy working.

rush hour

the world comes together at twilight;
day seaming shut, sun bleeding into a pool
and at the edges, the gentle assertiveness of stars.
but the traffic makes us forget.
overcome by lightshows from the other amnesiacs, the mind spills over with the detritus of the day and the recurring comfort of Home.

Red robot, our evening star.
brake light, clutch, brake, stop, de-gear.

and for a moment, look out the window and the soul breathes.

and coughs.
your spirit-kin gripping dirty cardboard, calling out for God to bless you.
your wet-soap eyes slip through, you can’t afford the awkward connection, and your pupils find a point just beyond the lazy bum who cracks your heart a little before you steel it once again.
and there, is the little girl.
with the whole wide world speeding around her, their minds spilling over with the detritus of the day and the recurring comfort of Home.
And she looks to the moon, her cardboard held high, a waving fan, brushing against the stars she is, jumping up, flapping wings, chasing at the fireflies above.
something almost pulls, come out and play.

Green robot.
clutch, accelerator.