Paradise Road

Come with me down Paradise Road 

this way please, I’ll carry your load 

this you won’t believe 

Joy’s hope for tomorrow blares

from a car radio on the day they meet.

it is the middle of October

in a spring that calls bare arms

to peek through sleeveless dresses,

as curly hair, straightened,

fights the Cape humidity to stay alive

in the front of his Peugeot 404, they sit

ready to embark on that beloved Cape Flats tradition:

the car rally. he drives -just like he does now-

and from the navigator’s seat,

she thrusts handfuls of redskin peanuts his way:

an order he willingly accepts,

neither of them aware of the daily ritual

this simple act would become

religiously, tenderly carried out over three decades later

in the back seat, legs stick to leather under heat’s duress,

their matchmakers sing along with the radio

“Come with me down Parrredise Rrrroad” 

voices enlivened with drunken conviction

in a moment that would later turn into folklore

a story tirelessly retold at birthday parties,

Christmas lunches and funerals

five October’s later

outside, the heat of a different spring rages

inside, their son’s crying is the new song

that foretells of brighter days ahead

but as they stand at the hospital window,

they watch as in the distance

smoke ascends from the streets they call home

a Greek tragedy re-staged in the theatre of a public street

          where a railway delivery truck is the wooden horse

          defence force police play the Greek soldiers

          and Athlone residents play the unsuspecting Trojans

turning ancient myth into present-day massacre

a single column of smoke signals their son’s birth

There are better days before us, 

And a burning bridge behind, 

fire smoking, the sky is blazing 

There’s a woman waiting weeping 

and a young man nearly beaten all for love 

Joy’s words echo in their unspeaking

and music cries the tears my parents cannot

Paradise was almost closing down

unpublished poem, © Toni Stuart 2017, used by permission of the author.

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