Cape Town Tourist Mid-air, two motions, two forms of time—spinning, but standing still.

From the base of Table Mountain, cables
that will draw the gondola up it rise
like black ropes into heaven, far above
the District Six Museum, far above
the island where the great man once endured,
waiting out his emancipation, far
above the concrete hulks that once held
the city’s grain, filled with post-apartheid art.
They must look small from that perch in the clouds.
And the tourist in me, bucket-lister,
the greedy soul inside of me decides
vertigo is worth the trip to the top.
A booming voice commands that we step back.
The floor will start to turn as we ascend.
Two motions, two forms of time, one rising,
the other turning slowly in circles,
a third, perhaps, in the escaping breaths
of bodies transmigrating: black bodies,
white, brown, standing adjacent in this space,
same, same, only different, different.
In the distance, shanties. In the middle
distance, ‘proper’ homes, barbed-wired, alarmed.
On the other side of the mountain stands
an empty pedestal, a reminder
how things change, but don’t. My revery
is ended by the titter of children
in uniform and the voice of a boy,
a young philosopher, I think, who says,
“We are spinning. But we are standing still.”
The cables groan and pull us towards the sky.

 


Michael Kelleher is an American poet, and the author of four collections of poems, the most recent of which is Visible Instruments (Chax Press, 2017). He works at Yale University as Director of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes.