I must be two and a half

or maybe three years old

we’ve just returned from the beach

in Muizemberg

we’re climbing the stairs

to our guesthouse

I feel terribly hot,

the sun was blazing this afternoon

you’re just behind me,

then suddenly I see you fall

and slip down the stairs,

like a ragged doll,

but with a heavy thump,

the vision is frightening.

Mamica, Mamica,

I want to scream,

but nothing

comes out of my mouth

and I stare blankly

minutes pass like hours,

someone has heard the noise

then I see two pairs of naked legs

approaching us

they’re long, muscled and very tanned,

two men in kaki shorts lift Mamica

and bring her to our room.

I follow, sobbing

the landlady reassures me,

«your mommy will be all right,

we have called the doctor,

don’t worry, dear.»

That is the first time

I witness your suffering, Mamica

and what a shock it is to see you,

my pillar of strength,

my lovely-looking mother

unconscious, or dead?  I’m not sure

– what does dead mean, anyway? –

at the mercy of strangers

and me, me, your adoring son,

powerless, all alone, stiff like a statue,

but with a heart that hurts so much,

I still cannot utter a word.

«Just a sunstroke!» says the doctor,

«give her this,» he tells our landlady,

«she’ll recover soon, but

don’t let her go back

to the sea before a few days.»

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