When Rooibos Was Ordinary

There are shivers.
So I write.
When Rooibos was ordinary,
We drank out of old china cups
Yellow flowers, gold edged
I, three years old, green headscarf
Rooibos, black, lemon slice, sugar
A teaspoon to blow and sip
Later, there on the shelves
Of the Hypermarket
(bring your car, you can park it)
Beneath the mine dump
(mysterious steps reached the stars, I swear it)
Between ricoffy and five roses
The souls of gold seekers wandered the aisles
Though we did not see them
When Rooibos was ordinary.



This poem was inspired by a beautiful piece I read on Stirring Conversations.  In it, Rooibos is the tea that is drunk during a conversation between the author and interviewee.   It is scented with lemongrass, and forms the backdrop to a moving and insightful conversation about the nature of friendship, regret, reflections on younger selves and the importance of being present, rather than thrusting forward to a point of resolution.  I thought about how the meaning of things changes.  How objects and products acquire layers of associations and resonance over life times that are contradictory and ambiguous, though they surround the same material reality.  Like Rooibos tea.  Growing up in South Africa, it was ubiquitous and so ordinary.  Unglamorous, yet comforting.  And also in the background as my life moved through various landscapes.   Now, living in what I suppose you would call the ‘West’ , Rooibos takes on other qualities… more elegant, refined, healthful and exotic.  As I read the interview on Stirring Conversations I shook my head because the way things transform is so compelling.  Reflected in the shifting meanings of objects, spaces, places, memories, people and the unfolding of conversations.





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