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Winter '24


i used to dread sundays in the years

when nylon knee-high socks were the vogue 

for proper girls and

green peas were served at lunch—

the gagging which i couldn’t help

was tolerated less on sundays, so i

always asked for extra milk

before lunch. before the visit

to the spired building

i used to love—its domed ceiling occupied

by a congregation of baby angels.

smiling men in suits adorning at the door

once, the three of us peeped through the heavy gold

curtains behind the baptismal font,

the first adherents had taken

their seats early, for contemplation;

thwarted by an old lady

and the curtains never saw us again.

first came the hymns, then the

choruses—more vibrant than the hymns

then the minister would appear in the

narrow pulpit and i would climb onto

my father’s lap, drinking the minty smell

of his black jacket and scuffing 

my buttoned shoe on the pew

there was where i felt safe, in his big hands,

in the solemn, sloping arena 

soon replaced by terror

ringing off the walls in crescendos

i remember how i’d watched

uncle jay playing rugby on the beach

with the men he was shouting at;

i remember his dark, uncombed hair,

and the laughter—i remembered the laughter

and how no-one ever shouted back.

how, in the end we would rise and wait for him

to walk up the aisle to the entrance,

where he shook everyone’s hand


and they all seemed to understand

what he was so angry about

Hayley Gibbons is a wife, mother, and English teacher from East London, South Africa. Her poetry has been published in various online journals including The Kalahari Review, Poetry Potion and African Writer. She loves listening to Sting and writing poetry whenever she has the chance.

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