african-born Isobel Dixon’s lines communicate not just warmth but, implicitly, information about the personalities of her father and mother and their relationship. Other poems in her new collection, The Leonids (Mariscat Press, £6), offer more insights into the family dynamic.


Perhaps the year

that great Aunt Mary died.

My father’s legacy, a little cash

to spare, so he could buy her

that unusual thing,

a brand new dress.

Not handmade, hand-me-down,

or from the jumble sale. Fresh

from the Ladies’ Garment Department’s rails,

brought home on ‘appro’ first,

for the approval of us all.

Long-sleeved, high-necked,

a floor-length fall

of vivid tangerine,

pearl buttons at the throat

and cuffs, like pips.

My mother, spicy naartjie,

turning, beautiful.

The trying on, my father’s praise

made pageant of a winter’s afternoon.

And decades later, with this poem

half-formed, him gone,

I come back home

and it’s on a hanger, on the bedroom screen,

on show. As if we’d both opened a door,

left it ajar, found the wardrobe’s store

of sunshine, oldest cloth worth most.

naartjie=Afrikaans for tangerine