Blackbox manifold

Issue 14: Jamie Osborn


Upturned jam buckets

formed a ring where the girls would sit in silence.

Sand was damp, or caked with

fossilised soap.

                       Broken glass, rusty spoons, buttons, cigarette ends.

Space, behind the hostel, where we

never went.

              Mr Maritshane

punished dirtiness; beatings,


                             If the children disappeared, they were

“washing cloth-es”; no one asked

                                                    why Melka Timi sat alone.

She buried nothing. No marks

on her clean-scrubbed skin.


Otjiwarango, Lüderitz, Botswana – The world

offered – Katima, Swakop, Rundu

greasy packets from Ocean’s Take-home –

Ai-Ais, Keetmans, Grootfontein

laundry bags, chicken wings. Squeezed

next to a mother and three children. “God

is our father” on the window.

Uis, Tsumeb, Opuwo – Opuwo? Yes,

my friend, kom ons gaan. Kom, Opuwo.


                          with hanging breasts, ochre skin.

Crossed Khomas highlands. Warthogs knelt by the roadside.

Kilometres of fence round Etosha, the lone giraffe.

In Outjo, a bakery

reserved for whites. Okahandja,

biltong sellers in swarms of flies.

Woman faints near Sesfontein. Minister

dies in Omaruru: newspapers

folded into hats.

Hymns on loop all the way to Khorixas,

schoolbells in Otjikondo, at Teufelsbach

a stark toddler watched.

             What faith are you,

the mother asked. Tallied roadsigns. Somebody’d bought fish,

the man with the suitcase full of hats

got out, the woman with ochre skin. The children

fought secretly. We didn’t know

how to look.


Smile: tourists think this

a foreigner’s home.


hard faces, too-wide

hips, legs

tensed to run, searching

fingers, keep

one hand on false wallet.

           The woman selling mielies from a sooty brazier


           In Little Gujarat,

noise stagnates to fug. Food,

clotting in vats, steam

sticks on doors, prints of gods. The other

client sprawls, bare arms, you

sweat. Stare into the window,

hard-edged skyscrapers,



                            that crone.

Jamie Osborn is a 2nd year English Undergraduate at Clare College, Cambridge, where he is also chair of Cambridge Student PEN. He is poetry editor for the international arts and literary magazine The Missing Slate. He is working on a sequence of poems based on his time as a teacher in Namibia. Poems from the sequence have been featured in The Mays Anthology 2014, and won second place in the Poetry Book Society National Student competition 2014.