Matric Rage

On the day we wrote our last exam,

we took off to the sea

in a convoy of our fathers’ old Mercedes,

perched along the seats’ laps like safety pins

half stuck in. Singular but fastening.


We called it our Matric Rage,

which I thought sounded accurate.

Once arrived, my friends went to visit,

then were visited by, this fast blink of boys

who named us “The Nuns” because we froze

then thawed out dinners nightly

in the holiday-house dance of our mums.

Knowing the comforts of a place mat

in the face of what comes.

After they left, we played 30 Seconds all night,

slept Tetrised in too few beds.Tucked together

chastely,chastely.

On our last evening we arrived at theirs

and found another girl on the balcony, passed out

into the front of her gentleman IEB candidate.

She was younger (I remember thinking, fifteen?

That tipping age) but with him in a way none of us

had ever been. Even you, our most dented,

kept your virginity on like a Ricoffy lid,

bubbling at the hand but sealed where it counts.

Here, all of a sudden, was the real arm-haired business of sex.

Sitting separate from us. Staying the night.

He nudged her awake, helped her up,

the sloping straps of her top

as significant and illegible to me

as the road signs I’d seen the day before

on that same beach

when I moved along it with you

and knew how even rocks could dilate

like an eye behind a frame.

Now dull and lidded,

now open in the shade

of the spaces you were certain

only circumstance had made

(which were permanent

to me).

There is always some small give to be used.

And each temporary crock,

each accommodating trough

was small and private enough;

a place where things could be performed,

where evidence could be wrung;

where you could leave the water quick

with what we’d just done to it,

and walk back to the others,

dry in your towel, in your bikini.

This poem was originally published in Matric Rage (uHlanga Press: 2016).

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