The Visitor

Author: • March 26, 2018 • Poems

chair-pixabayOn evening news, I watched smoke billow

above Alexandra, Durban and Soweto

like a raised hand appealing mercy.

Displaced families huddled in white

tent camps flapping in the veld

or packed inside church halls

between bundles of belongings

salvaged to start again.


You were Dad’s university colleague,

invited to stay in our guesthouse

when Alexandra classified your body

as an invasive species from the Congo,

draining the environment of jobs,

infecting it with crime,

and needing to be removed.


I caught pieces of your presence

while you were with us:

the slick and thud of the sliding door,

muffled chatter in French on a cellphone,

flashes of red and green clothing

between drawn curtains.


Your pungent cologne and body odor,

sharp with a stench of restlessness,

lingered in the air of the guesthouse

after you moved on, as did your name


that remains with me as a haunting

evoked in Aleppo’s fire and ash,

human chains curving between borders

and Calais’s sprawling tent city,

as I wonder if you ever made it home,

or if home became spare beds and couches.

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About the Author

Cecile's Writer: Jonathan RoweAuthor: Jonathan Rowe

Country of residence: United States of America

Nationality: American

Mother tongue: English

Jonathan Rowe was born in Boston, Massachusetts but moved to Johannesburg, South Africa at the age of twelve, and spent the next nine years there before returning to the United States. His parents are of American and British nationality. Jonathan’s work has been published in Emmanuel College's literary magazine, The Saintly Review, and can be found at

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