Kolmanskop is a deserted town in Namibia. After the discovery of diamonds in the desert by a railroad worker buildings were erected, workers brought in, and much money was made. However, once the final diamonds were taken Kolmanskop gradually died. Now it is empty with the sand filling the deserted houses. Tourists can visit the surreal town. Several themes are dealt with here: greed, injustice and racism, the transience of human endeavour, the patient superiority of nature over frenetic human greed etc.
They’re all gone now.
They deserted Diamond Town.
The splintered beams and glassless windows
of abandoned buildings echo only
the more persistent scale of ascent:
This block for the labourers,
This house for the manager,
This dream for the Boss.
It was a railway worker,
it was Lewala,
sweeping the tracks,
found the first fallen star.
Curious, he brushed away the sand.
And hid it for two days
Before he opened up his hand.
Busy with papers, Stauch looked up,
His concentration masked a grin,
His jutting innards forced into a calm.
Of course Lewala was handsomely rewarded,
Oh that boy did well. He was promoted,
Became the driver of the Baas’s coach,
The first of his family to own a silver watch.
And then they came
like khakied geckos shuffling in lines,
day and night,
winning swimmers breast-stroking in the sand,
lifting out stars in the moonlight.
This was an addiction beyond pleasure,
‘They lay as thick as plums under a plumtree.’
‘One of our men returned crazy, in wide-eyed silence,
No more room in his pockets;
He had a mouthful of diamonds!’
A sudden rush, the great white interest came,
fingering the sand dunes for her jewels.
A town was born, like a real town
with real accommodation for labourer, manager, Boss.
For a time the world was miraged in the sand,
a Casino in the desert,
satisfying the thirst of thirsty men.
It’s not as though there wasn’t enough…
This poverty thing. This resource thing.
But God rained them down,
He rained them down in the desert.
We found diamonds in the desert!
So it was us then? This poverty thing.
Lewala was sent to Cape Town,
all the coloureds had to go. It was the War.
Stauch returned to Germany richer than stay awake dreams.
They call it the Ghost Town.
poking eager heads through the empty frames of windows.
The desert’s in the house today
the rising climb of mountain ranges in the hallway,
vast sand dunes rising to the ceiling,
stretching out majestically,
the horizon kissing the faded outline of a picture frame
on the patterned wall.
This is a landscape in the lounge.
We built a town called Kolmanskop.
There was a rush all right,
Frenzied fishing in the sand.
But the stars have gone,
and the slow inevitable weight of sand has won,
pushing through the hallway,
elbowing into the dining room,
swallowing the past.
©2014 Lex Loizides
The Explorers was first published in The South African Literary Journal: New Contrast
We were adventurers then,
Lost in all our finding,
Little conquerors over a streaming brook,
Leaping from stone to rock,
Peering into the sun-warmed ripples,
Bending with our hand-made nets,
Scooping up our sticklebacks and stones.
We were the happy venturers,
Laughing in our jungle,
Leaping across our Amazon,
Balancing on the boulders of the world.
Further on, the river curved,
Yielding the discovery of a small
smiling stretch of sand
It was our favourite miniature, the Beach.
And whenever we reached it
We’d made it to the Beach.
I ought never to go back there.
Back to where we were.
I know it’s either all gone,
Or is just the remains of what
it actually may have been,
Just the end of something,
a small brook
At the back of the V Park, Enfield N9;
Now a paltry remnant
With some half-sunk junk
And the meagre waters
Disappearing darkly under the dual carriageway.
And my kids would say,
‘Dad! Why have you brought us here?
Why have you brought us out here?’
I know. I know.
But when we were the Explorers,
It was a day in the country then.
And I wish I could take you there,
Oh I wish I could take you out there.
© 2015 Lex Loizides
For Roger Stott
a departed friend and mentor
To lay an ancient book upon a table,
Opening its pages to new eyes,
To sit in careful stillness as old music
Breaks and recreates its first sunrise,
His was a soul-enlarging mission,
A captive to the clarity of words,
And finding treasure shared his fascination.
Higher than the lecture hall this calling,
Closer were the lessons to the heart
Flowing with the whisky and the rhyming
He made discovery of art an art.
A poet’s longing mirrored in other poets’ words
Making disciples through his own delight,
And searching in the fragments for the light.
© 2015 Lex Loizides