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Diving Deep in Sydney on Vaal

Memory’s a kind of trap

In which our residues condense;

No hope of sifting out the sense,

You always have to take the rap.

Three score and seven years ago

Treading water in the cool green River Vaal,

Old mining machinery sunk beneath my feet,

I sought but to escape the summer's heat.

I had a cigarette from a Miss—was it?—Odendaal,

me seventeen; she perhaps twenty-one,

The young postmistress of a town that'd failed to sprout

Launched after the great 1870s diamond rout.


Ebullient then in that Victorian sun,

They’d created a little library there

(by our time no one left to care).

Among the books I saw, by Gissing



—I finished reading it just the other day

After a sixty-seven-year delay.

It's excellent, too, in its old-time way.

(Unhappy, though, the girl goes missing.)


Well, Nobodaddy, what more's to say?

You've read it too, I'm sure. Quit wishing!

You wished us into being then;

one wonders what on earth you'd wish for, when . . .



Note: Sydney on Vaal is a ghost town in South Africa's Northern Cape province.


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