Xamissa: The Water Archives
Cover art by Sokari Douglas Camp
1. The loops of telephone wire on creosote polesHenk Rossouw, from “Rearrival”
sine waves—the arcade
flight pattern of the city
starlings. Red-winged, shadow-bodied birds
cloud the stone courtyard of the Dutch East India Company’s Slave Lodge
and parking garages and eaves. This is
civil twilight. I have been absent for seven years.
collective noun for the cloudburst of starlings in the early winter sky,
my brother says. Starlings on the telephone wires line the foothill streets of
Walmer Estate. Our roadside perception of the houses and warehouses and lots,
sloping toward the harbor below, has been anchored momentarily among
the crowd on the footbridge,
once segregated (BLANK-
ES/ NIE-BLANKES) with legislative
sheet metal, and now
a suspended desire line
above Rolihlahla Boulevard —renamed for the president
on the island often
visible from here.
The tarmac with his name contours against the table-shaped mountain as it bisects the city.
Xamissa vs. Cape Town, the city in the brochure, little more than
a summer dress, all air, colour and light, cast off onto
the indigenous peninsula—like a beautiful wet bag over the mouth of.
Hoerikwaggo means, in the crossed out language, mountain in the sea.
The Standard Bank sign on the foreshore
—cement land reclaimed from the sea and the descendants of enslaved
Xamissans, who would launch slender fishing boats there, from the shoreline
now buried under rubble—
flickers on blue against the close of day.
Xamissa, the city at nightfall double-lit
by the artificial and the fleeting.
Electric sunset. The early
sodium-vapor street lamps echo the burnt orange.