02011103 - Version 7
by Derek Kannemeyer

There’s a photograph of me at the beach:
I’m four or five, skulking in a nook of rock
with one arm flung across my midriff
to prevent the lascivious exposure of my navel.
Where did it come from, this modesty my parents hooted at,
in sunny South Africa, on the frolicsome Cape sands?
The panic caught on my face can’t be coy, surely;
surely I can’t believe I’ve anything much to protect?
It’s terrible to be born so private and so self-involved,
to be so modest and so immodest, as if anybody even cares
about the flaws or the perfections of one’s ordinary person.
How much longer must I hole up so, for the indifferent world
to not gawp at, holding this same shy, brazen pose?
Still stricken so with wonder at my terrible, terrible bellybutton;
still singing, “Don’t look at me! Don’t look at me!”

PHOTO: Three Kannemeyers on the rocks, circa 1954, Western Cape, South Africa.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem that appears here was written to announce an upcoming reading. In the few years since I wrote it, the photograph that inspired it seems to have utterly disappeared. Mmh. But I’ll offer another one, from the same year, I believe, in which you will notice that I am the only one of the subjects who remains decently clad. And unlike my brother and my father, I have my eyes closed: to draw attention, it may be conjectured, to my renunciation of all this unsavory (and yet poetic? rather charming?) self-flaunting of the exposed self.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Derek Kannemeyer was born in Cape Town, South Africa, raised in London, England, and teaches in Richmond, Virginia. His writing has appeared in a few dozen print and online journals.