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Father Tongue

By Jill Abram

The sweetest naartjies I ever ate

were bought on the roadside

from a barefoot boy in tatty shorts

and a T shirt with a hole below Man U.


He looked younger than me at ten –

I couldn’t believe he’d seen my home team

even though I’d flown eighteen hours

to where he and my Dad were born.


He took Dad’s coin with both hands

and a smile which lifted his eyes.

He waved at me as we drove away slowly

so our wheels didn’t spit dust over him.


Whenever I peel a tangerine I see him.

I let juice linger in my mouth while

I consider the Afrikaans word I never heard

in England, except in our house.

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