Sentinel Literary Quarterly

Vol.2 No.2, January 2009. ISSN 1753-6499 (Online).

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Bernard Gieske
Genna Gardini
Helena Carolinska
Michael Lee Rattigan
Nnorom Azuonye
Ramesh Dohan
Sholeh Wolpé
Terri Ochiagha
Tolu Ogunlesi
Uche Nduka
Uchechukwu Umezurike
William Stephenson




















Genna Gardini


First Generation


(for Mara, Oscar and Michele Gardini)


Where I am from we do not measure relation in corpuscles.


That is why I love you more than I know how to tell you

and I tell you all the time


about the tiny Canadian

demonstrating the sting of the felt mantis-

He mouths it into your puppet’s pursed ear,

oh, Jesus,

your mother and your father and your brother,

your Nonna who soiled her gingham dress,

in glee, by the pronutro pool at the old house,

in Zimbabwe- One day I, also, will realize

I am a grown woman

being chased by a monkey, and wee.


Bone memories speak a language of marrow, fried.

We were made for the government school,

the horse-prowled Benoni farm lands,

an Uncle’s seven-eleven down by the train tracks.

Are you scared you’re a coloured

and not Portuguese?

he asks,

and I can’t stop laughing.


She told me that I grew in her heart

instead of under it,

and I imagined myself squashed in that cavity,

sucking on a cardial chord, like a slikkie,

more than blood, more than fat,

I am made of these white moments,

healthy as cells, with their new-mattress walls bolstered

by decades of cutlery and jars, the lazy susan

we spun to Durban and Cape Town and back,

a roulette I won, every time.


For Laura, who is four


We have drawn a picture of you, together.


My little, my white plaster cast


a first year installation, a story you read before doodoo,

watching her glass-eye watch you,

the chink-wall of channels, shuffling.

She will not sleep,

has to tell you about each item in her toybox.

I love it! that tiny chest, straining towards things,

I love it.


This is my one hair (what happened to the rest?

They burned it off in the fires, you shrug,

but before I can ask)

and this is my dress (I know, I helped with that part.

Yes, you did, grudgingly)

and this my winky.


Ah, fat oblong.

I took you for a slipper.


She still takes you with to the cubicle,

that small hot hand, limp and protesting in yours,

the resigned murmur of “Uppies” when

there are too many spikes in this hanging basket of a yard,

being big, being useful.


You sure you have a winky?

Ja, I do.


I see a circle on the sternum, untoured.

S’that, baba? It’s where I got bitened.



We only change the sheets

for when you dream of your small mouse

trapped in the parrot’s cage

and wake up, missing!

This talcum powder give, this springy.


She tries again-

You know, you know when the wolf bitened me?

You know when the wolf and the ghost bitened me?,

peels a bandage from her finger,

sits it on the sketch’s collarbone.


Owie? I hazard.

Owie. She confirms.


Jakob I


Let’s intone a little rhyme about passing.

Necessity renovates the interior,

quick-cut job, gravel still in the letters’ ridge,

so he can feel his way around


the back room - a chest that won’t contract,

because that would mean it was made of muscle

when, really, it is a tight, stone slab of fat.

Epidural, around about,

wobbling solidly under inspection.


Squat on the floor’s tin

with your bog-hair slickened to skin,

feigning a wind thinned under the airline blanket,

whispering “organic” to the boy you love,

instead of amen.


Pucker up, you spackled pore.


Jakob II


Damp as a tuber, bursting with something white-sauced and odorous,

these are the sumstains we tried to deodorize:


the sweat’s slug suggestion of facial hair, the lint off uncertainty,

thin weevils that burrow through your digestive tract.


You only wanted to grow it out of compost steel and manufactured

because you forgot the difference between shit and blood.


The bile-pit is shot up with swab samples now.

Hypothetical sisters you didn’t know how to love,


ignoring the kisses their bilious knees scraped against yours 

as you tipped them in, grey limb by chalk limb. 


A wing of skin tucked into your sleeve.

Things you chucked away, things you have heard already.


Jakob III


Assuming one could pass if fastened into his hide

she became a small acorn button, tacked to the uniform.


I showed it to him because even the acid

needs an audience, needs an arm

to eat its recognition through-


The Youth Leaguer spoke fluently, sure,

but there was a hairlip crack in his pronunciation,

a brown fissure underside to the fruit.

Reich little peach.


I sat on stoops with him, thinking,

who would have allowed this, a century ago?

I know what I look like:

the gold calving sheen, certain mannerisms,

my inked-in stocking seam.


It takes the right kind of blonde to acknowledge it.

That’s why we were in love when your hair was brown.


The girl at the video store asks-

what did you get for English?

I did ok, I say.


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Genna Gardini lives in Cape Town, South Africa. She has been published in international magazines Sein und Werden and Sub-Lit. Her work has also appeared in South African publications such as the 2008 POWA anthology, Fidelities, Carapace and


Sentinel Literary Quarterly

 Published by Sentinel Poetry Movement

Editor: Nnorom Azuonye

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