a poem by Conrad Kruger van den Bergh, South Africa - poetry writer, author, poet

She stumbles down the dark stairway
falling with the shadows
the sluggish lightbulb
dangling from electric wires above
yellowing the air
condemning her into a dark wraithlike figure
a reminder that Hell is in this world
in the painful steps
of hurt and memories
people keep inside of them
until they lose their footing
on the Earth

she moves towards the lobby
not minding stepping into the dirt
scattered all over the stairs
all the way down
or to slightly slip on the cracked
and broken concrete
below her feet
or the breath the mould
from the paint stripped walls

her fingers grip the railing
sliding with her descent
and her ring
the one she always wears
scratching the filthy surface
with the twisted rhythm
of her chaotic movement
and two golden bangles
around her thin wrist
ringing like far away chimes

she steps into the dim lobby
reaches for the old copper doorknob
turns the handle
opens the door
and greets the darkness
on the other side

and it is the gale
feeding on the sky
which tears a howl
through the streets

and I know
without having to look
that she closed her eyes
the moment she saw the night

but it is that wind that finds her fears
which blows her blond curls
to reveal her delicate neck
and the feathered earring
which she loves to wear

I stand there
at the top of the stairway
nearly naked
only in my underwear
my arms folded into each other
tightly to my chest
watching her

a few seconds earlier
I was still laying on my sofa
heard her apartment door slam
heard her running down the hallway

I headed for my front door
opened it and ran after her
fast enough to see her crimson dress
curl around the corner
flapping gently down the stairway

I raced towards the stairs
just in time to see her
head down
and to open the door
the meet the darkness

“Where you’re going!” I call to her
and in the slight lifting of her chin
and sudden tilt of her head
I know she did not know I ran after her
or was standing there
watching her broken moves

she turns
and I find her eyes
through her messy blond hair
vailing most of her face
but not the dirty lines and smudges
of tears upon her cheeks

she stares back at me
not saying a word
trying to pretend
that she wasn’t crying moments before
trying to fake
that she wasn’t hurting

she turns her eyes away from me
tries to gaze over her shoulder
tries to find the open door
the darkness
and once again the freezing wind
finds her hair

“Where you’re going?” I ask her again
she turns her eyes back to me again
“I just gotta’ get out of here…”, her voice softer than usual
I don’t want her to go
“It’s freezing out there” I say again “The wind’s blowing everything away. Come back up. I’ll fix you a drink”

she doesn’t answer
just stands there
at the open door
not moving
lowering her eyes to the floor
and cries again

I don’t go down the stairs to her
I know her too well
she wouldn’t want me there right now
she just wants to stand there
and cry
just for a moment
that’s how she is
she prefers to cry alone

“How did you do it?” She asks me through her tears
“Did what?”
“Kill the Devil inside of you?”
I know what she is talking about
know it all too well
“I didn’t. …I just keep him stoned on booze all the time …and hope he never comes to”
and that is the truth
he and his daemons and ghosts
enjoy their time around my table
I make them take their time to drink my whiskey
to make sure they don’t go anywhere soon

she wipes her tears from her cheeks
with the back of a hand
struggles to speak
“I wasn’t there, you know…”
I don’t answer her
I don’t have an answer for her
I just stand there
in my jocks
looking down at her

“…I wasn’t there when Sarah got her degree the other day… I wasn’t there to watch her walk around in one of those classy black robes… or to take a nice picture of her. I only got an old picture of my girl, …but I know she’s got beautiful hair you know…”
she was hurting
more than what any soul
was ever meant to bear
her chest shaking
and her words disappearing
through her tears

“Please, …come back upstairs” I say again, “I’ll fix you a drink”
“No. I just want to get out of here”
and she turns
slips through the doorway
into the darkness

and all I get to see
is her crimson dress
flapping around the corned
disappearing into midnight
out of sight

I don’t try to stop her
I don’t go after her
I just let her go
to deal with her pain
because there is nothing in this world
that I could ever say
or do
to fix all the hurt
that was burning inside her brain
devouring her soul

for how do I support her
and what do I say
to my friend Mazzy
close to midnight
on this day
the fifth of September
twenty-six years ago
she was forced
to give up
her infant daughter…

Conrad Kruger van den Bergh (Copyright, 2016)

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