Antjie Krog – vertaling in Engels

Antjie Krog – translated by/ vertaal deur outeur/author, Denis Hirson, Richard Jürgens, Karen Press and Tony Ullyatt

 

  

 

Antjie Krog
Antjie Krog

Antjie Krog was born in 1952 and grew up on a farm in the Kroonstad District of the Free State Province in South Africa. She is the daughter of Willem Krog and Dot Serfontein, herself a writer with whom Krog has a complex relationship of connection and disconnection as literary foremother. She studied at the University of the Free State (BA 1973, BA Hons 1976), the University of Pretoria (MA 1983) and UNISA (Teacher’s Diploma). During the 1980s she taught at a high school and teachers’ college in Kroonstad. In 1993 she became editor of the journal Die Suid-Afrikaan (The South African), based in Cape Town. From 1995 to 2000 she worked for the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) as a radio journalist, reporting on the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision from 1996 to 1998. During this time she also wrote articles for newspapers and journals.She has read from her work at various international literary festivals, been keynote speaker at a variety of conferences and lectured extensively on aspects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in England, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA. In 2004 she was appointed professor extraordinaire at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town. She is married to architect John Samuel, and has four children and three grandchildren.

Krog’s first volume Dogter van Jefta was published in 1970 when she was 17 years old, following adverse publicity about the poem ‘My mooi land’ (‘My beautiful land’) published in a school yearbook. To date Krog has published ten volumes of poetry as well as three volumes of children’s verse in Afrikaans. Her poetry is strongly autobiographical, depicting the progressive stages of her private experience within the larger context of public life in South Africa. It is also characterised by a constant reflection on the writer’s aesthetic, political and ethical responsibilities. Whereas her first four collections, published in the 1970s, focused mostly on the private experience of the female adolescent and student, the young married woman and mother, the volumes published in the 1980s became increasingly politicised. These books gave voice to a transgressive gender consciousness (Otters in bronslaai, 1981) and made use of historical material to engage with the oppressive policies of the apartheid government (Jerusalemgangers, 1985 and Lady Anne, 1989).

Krog’s first collection to be published in the nineties (Gedigte 1989-1995, 1995) was a deliberate attempt to move away from the complexity of the previous volumes and used thematic material not normally found in poetry (peeing in township toilets, for instance). Kleur kom nooit alleen nie (2000) grappled with defining her own position in post-apartheid South Africa as well as finding a place for herself in the larger context of Africa. The next volume was published simultaneously in Afrikaans and English as Verweerskrif / Body Bereft (2006), eliciting controversy for its candid account of the menopausal woman and ageing female body. Her most recent publication is Waar ek jy word / Waar ik jou word (2009), a slim collection of Afrikaans poems with Dutch translations published as the National Poetry Day booklet in the Netherlands.

Krog’s poetry is strongly metaphorical, intensely lyrical and passionate in its engagement with both the private and the political spheres of life (the main character in J.M. Coetzee’s novel Diary of a Bad Year refers to the “white heat” of her work). She mostly uses the free-verse form, but also has the ability to vary her use of poetic forms and to build densely constructed cycles and volumes.

Krog started publishing prose in the 1990s, developing a unique form of autobiographical writing which combines factual with fictional and lyrical elements. The best known of these works is her account of reporting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Country of my Skull (1998). It was her first work to be published in English and brought her international recognition. She has also written a play, Waarom is die wat voor toyi-toyi altyd so vet? which was performed at arts festivals in South Africa in 1999.

Since the late 1990s, Krog has also established herself as a translator. She has translated Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (2001), works by Henk van Woerden and Tom Lanoye, as well as a selection of South African verse written in the indigenous African languages into Afrikaans. This was followed by a reworking of narratives in the extinct language /Xam into Afrikaans poems in Die sterre sê ‘tsau’ and English poems in The stars say ‘tsau’ (2004).

She has won major awards in almost all the genres she has worked in: poetry, journalism, fiction and translation. Her work has been translated into English, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Serbian.

– Louise Viljoen  

 

 

Christmas before the first democratic election

 

after the rains

the veld gives herself like a slut to the green

of bleak barren plains suddenly nothing

to be seen     everything feasts    everything

carouses green    among thorn trees and braggart tussles          

     is the vapour of jitters and glue-lick

     the hump of karee   the foxtrot of wild olive

and for Christmas the cat-bush tiptoes red stipples

wait, see there: the ginger-green pools swell every afternoon

ample with boons of clouds reflecting lightning white

 

the excess is so unimpaired

so sudden

so cicada-singing

so well-disposedly generous

that it attests to a bloody insensitivity about us

us to whom these velds belong

lied and belied we feel    we to whom these velds belong                          

eroded bewildered assaulted we feel     we to whom these velds belong

we fold out hands around our share of chicken and trifle

perhaps the last Christmas together like this

 

this, on this farm 

 

(From: Gedigte 1989 – 1995, Hond, (1995))

(Tr. by the author)

 

 

narratives from a stone-desert called Richtersveld

narrative of Griet Farmer of Eksteenfontein

 

“I am very close to cattle

a house is nothing for me

but the open veld

I got length in the open veld

in a small round house

when we arrived here it was raining

and the daisies were so high

that when I squatted I was sitting under a floor of flowers

from that day I adopted this stony place

and love it until now

for the disposition

for the veld

the man-of-the-park fetched us one day

to show us the park where our cattle once grazed

but there was a puffadder in the road and the man stopped

drive over that thing, kill it, I shouted, it only wants to poison us

no, said the parksman and waited patiently for the snakething

to cross the road

he showed us the halfhuman

but really, that I am used to

but my eyes stabbed this way and that

for that bulb that we used to eat in the veld

it had such funny fingers

and myself and Kowa’s mouth were watering    

Kowa even took a knife to clean it of thorns                            

and so we walked and searched while the others were at the halfhuman

here I found it! the !Xona and I tore off a piece

but the man said you may not simply take a piece

and I told the man

what shall we do we have eaten this since a long time

then he said it should be protected for your children

then I said but our children do not eat bulbs

then he said Kowa and I may each take one         

Kowa silently pocketed another small one

but I am at peace now

I know they still grow somewhere”

 

 (From: Kleur kom nooit alleen nie. Kwela Boeke, 2000)

(Tr. by the author)

 

 

narrative of old nomadic movement patterns

 

in the winter the people from Paulscorner  move to Lostcourage, Hump, Goodmanswater, Ditchling, Dams, One Willow and Pits. The people from Redfountain pitch their place for grazing at Carpetthingvalley, Kammassies, Thickheadkraal and Turn. From Narrowriver lies the road through Ownedwater, Khiribes, Baboonscorner, Hosabes en Redheight. Depending on the rain Spittleriver moves to Scissormountain, Wheathigh and Partrichvalley, Stonefountain move to Newvalley, Greywater and Governmentwell. Tworivers to Wavekraal and Hareriver. Oom Jakobus moves from Ochta to Smallpoxtit and later to Oena. Ploughmountain. Bigentrails. Windblow. Kabies.

 “This pattern was completely overturned by the establishment of economic units.”

 Land Use in Namaqualand by Henry Krohne and Lala Steyn

                                                                                                          

 

narrative of goatfarmer Oom Jakobus de Wet

 

“around Jerusalem are mountains

here alone with the goats in the veld

are also mountains

but all around is God

the whole evening I feel Him coming from this side of Lizardvalley

 

the beginning of me

was at Tattasberg mountain which they now call Richtersveld

herding goats  the jackal gorge from the buttock to the stomach

the baboon is different  he doesn’t catch, he takes

he tears open at the hips

in order to thread the entrails

 

my grandchild Benjamin does the herding

his mouth told this to me this morning

himself he said he wanted to be a goatherd

and I am satisfied

God put into everybody his own talent

at night at the camp we needn’t talk

we know where grazing took place and where it should take place

it is a good life to give to a child

every child has his honour

let me say it

it is tasty to be with a grandchild

he makes me laugh

he let me say untoward things

it is good to be with him

 

because day and night one is alone here at the post with Christ

we talk

you can lie back

and look at Him with clear eyes

you only have to look

because spirit is always aware of spirit

 

my goats are branded: swallowtail and half moon in front

               try-square and swallowtail at the other ear

government has given me a stud ram

a carcassholding ram a real praise goat

among my goats I can never do apartheid

my goats are one

then the blessing of the Lord is there

but if I divide

I will bring my end

 

over midday the heat sets firmly in the hills

stones are bleached into blue

at the camp between ebony and karee

oom Jakobus turns the colon upside down

and spreads kidneyfat like breath over the branches                           

the shadelet is so shallow he mutters next to the slaughtered orrogoat

on the radio on a tin

Cobus Bester reads the one o’clock news in Afrikaans

 

fragile lies the river

open artery in the heat

the landscape unthinkable without this browngreen cut

undestructibly older than the oldest human breath on stone 

it feeds the goats of dream and the goats of dying

of nothing too many

of nothing too utterly few

 

the mountain on the other side looks as if it’s leaking

against the midday hour the mountain slakes in blue

strains away in tainted bronze                                            

the first vygies hiss in cianide

when the sun looks out I am there   I am there in lavender blue

 

I look at my watch

it is twenty minutes to three

and it means nothing absolutely nothing

we drowse between shade and grazing and heat

 

the sun at last tilts

the ridges echo of bleating as the big goats turn homewards

the strapped lambs fight with the riempies

 

nothing as soft as lambkin of goat

nothing as snouty

as delicately mouthed   defencelessly eyed

as lambkin of goat in the evening when dusks sets in

some get teat some foreign teat

and its big bleat to flat bleat to smallforlorn bleat

to gay bleat to moan bleat to spoilt bleat

to the vexed bleat of boss bleat

 

the velvet of a lamkin of goat’s ear

slips through my palm

how do I follow the lines towards you love

when the late light knells along the stones

how do I remember my shivering body in your hand

while you nibble down my spine

how do I grow you here love

next to the great river

so that the past brackish bitter year

can be sedimented into love?’

 

the goats come home

short woolen waterfalls plunge from the trees

   in the late noon dust

lambs and kraal and goat beards

flickering piss and square droppings

like the diamonds it also has form here

two nipples   callous knees

whatever they’ve eaten let them fart tonight

little horns like horny wings

which could be pure angel

but the transparent striped eyes of a male goat

speaks of the devil complaining to satan, says Benjamin

and outside his nephew Joseph is preaching

over there on the hill he stands swinging his arms

his voice blown in texts down to us

joseph preaches for the stones the valleys

to the river he sings

to the goats the night he preaches

this child is an embarrassment to me grumbles oom Jakobus  

colour never comes alone he says

colour never comes alone

 

(From: Kleur kom nooit alleen nie. Kwela Boeke, 2000)

(Tr. by the author)

 

 

WHERE I BECOME YOU (1. )

1.

you come to win me over
at the other end of the world
I hear your call
shivering night blue and blindly
bound by radiant bones

with you my head bitingly cold

unwillingly hairgrown
scentgirded
you begin to unfasten the I from the self
the inviolable once
you let loose in many

separating-laying-side-by-side
loosening one piece from another
so that the bonds seem incessantly to unfold
in the unbearably co-writing
breath of unsundered roses

to dis-
mantle
the I
from the also-I
the you
from the almost-
you-in-me

listen, you say, how un-
fathomably it grieves,
the profoundness of love

 

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press
From: Where I Become You
Publisher: First published on PIW, Rotterdam, 2009

 

© 2009, Antjie Krog
From: Waar ik jou word
Publisher: Poetry International / Uitgeverij Podium, Rotterdam / Amsterdam, 2009
ISBN: 9-789057-592980

 

***

 

WHERE I BECOME YOU (4. )

 

overwhelmed by the whisper of our
capacity to grip
this kneadable earth’s mantle

can I not be not-you
you not be no-one
we not be nowhere
the unheard-of befitting word
not be unsaid by us

my heart falters – more weightless than before
yet bridgeable

there where I am other than you
I begin
it’s true

but there where I am you
have become you
I sing beyond myself
light pulses of quicksilversong
a thing cast beyond all humankind

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

© 2009, Antjie Krog
From: Waar ik jou word
Publisher: Poetry International / Uitgeverij Podium, Rotterdam / Amsterdam, 2009
ISBN: 9-789057-592980

 

***

 

WHERE I BECOME YOU (9. )

 

9.

autumn the singularity from your sleep before dawn
all signals roam through your tongue
and we hold each other’s blood in trust
my lived one
my faithsong enraptured

your non-negotiable breath
makes of us separate ones
in the course of time
o my embodied love
lingering in gravity, all-powerful: us

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press
Publisher: First published on PIW, Rotterdam, 2009

 

© 2009, Antjie Krog
From: Waar ik jou word
Publisher: Poetry International / Uitgeverij Podium, Rotterdam / Amsterdam, 2009
ISBN: 9-789057-592980

 

***

 

COUNTRY OF GRIEF AND GRACE

a.

between you and me
how desperately
how it aches
how desperately it aches between you and me

so much hurt for truth
so much destruction
so little left for survival

where do we go from here

your voice slung
in anger
over the solid cold length of our past

how long does it take
for a voice
to reach another

in this country held bleeding between us

b.

in the beginning is seeing
seeing for ages
filling the head with ash
no air
no tendril
now to seeing speaking is added
and the eye plunges into the wounds of anger

seizing the surge of language by its soft bare skull
hear oh hear
the voices all the voices of the land
all baptised in syllables of blood and belonging
this country belongs to the voices of those who live in it
this landscape lies at the feet at last
of the stories of saffron and amber
angel hair and barbs
dew and hay and hurt

c.

speechless I stand
whence will words now come?
for us the doers
the hesitant
we who hang quivering and ill
from this soundless space of an Afrikaner past?
what does one say?
what the hell does one do
with this load of decrowned skeletons origins shame and ash
the country of my conscience
is disappearing forever like a sheet in the dark

d.

we carry death
in a thousand cleaving spectres
affected
afflicted
we carry death

it latches its mouth to our heart
it sucks groaningly
how averse lures the light on our skin
it knows
our people carry death
it resembles ourselves
ou stomachs wash black with it
a pouch of ink
we carry death into the houses
and a language without mercy
suddenly everything smells of violence

death snaps its repentless valves in our language
yes, indefatigable meticulous death

e.

deepest heart of my heart
heart that can only come from this soil
brave
with its teeth firmly in the jugular of the only truth that matters
and that heart is black
I belong to that blinding black African heart
my throat bloats with tears
my pen falls to the floor
I blubber behind my hand
for one brief shimmering moment this country
ths country is also truly mine

and my heart is on its feet

f.

because of you
this country no longer lies
between us buth within

it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull
it sings   it ignites
my tongue   my inner ear   the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

I am changed for ever   I want to say
forgive me
forgive me
forgive me

you whom I have wronged, please
take me

with you

g.

this body bereft
this blind tortured throat

the price of this country of death
is the size of a heart

grief comes so lonely
as the voices of the anguished drown on the wind

you do not lie down
you open up a pathway with slow sad steps
you cut me loose

into light – lovelier, lighter and braver than song
may I hold you my sister
in this warm fragile unfolding of the word humane

h.

what does one do with the old
which already robustly stinks with the new
the old virus slyly manning the newly installed valves
how does one recognise the old
   with its racism and slime
its unchanging possessive pronoun
what is the past tense of the word hate
what is the symptom of brutalised blood
of pain that did not want to become language
of pain that could not become language

what does one do with the old
how do you become yourself among others
how do you become whole
how do you get released into understanding
how do you make good
how do you cut clean
how close can the tongue tilt to tenderness
or the cheek to forgiveness?

a moment
a line which says: from this point onwards
   it is going to sound differently
because all our words lie next to one another on the table now
shivering in the colour of human
we know each other well
each other’s scalp and smell   each other’s blood
we know the deepest sound of each other’s kidneys in the night
we are slowly each other
anew
new
and here it starts

i.

(but if the old is not guilty
does not confess
then of course the new can also not not be guilty
nor be held accountable
if it repeats the old

things may then continue as before
but in a different shade)

 

© Translation: 2000, Antjie Krog
From: Down to my last skin
Publisher: Random House, South Africa,
ISBN: 0 9584195 5 8

 

***

 

LAND

under orders from my ancestors you were occupied
had I language I could write for you were land my land

but me you never wanted
no matter how I stretched to lie down
in rustling blue gums
in cattle lowering horns into Diepvlei
rippling the quivering jowls drink
in silky tassels in dripping gum
in thorn trees that have slid down into emptiness

me you never wanted
me you could never endure
time and again you shook me off
you rolled me out
land, slowly I became nameless in my mouth

now you are fought over
negotiated divided paddocked sold stolen mortgaged
I want to go underground with you land
land that would not have me
land that never belonged to me

land that I love more fruitlessly than before

 

© Translation: 2000, Antjie Krog
© Karen Press
From: Down to my last skin
Publisher: Random House, South Africa,
ISBN: 0 9584195 5 8

 

***

 

MA WILL BE LATE

 

that I come back to you
tired and without memory
that the kitchen door is open I

shuffle in with suitcases hurriedly bought presents
my family’s distressed dreams
slink down the corridor the windows stained

with their abandoned language in the hard
bathroom light I brush my teeth
put a pill on my tongue: Thur

that I walk past where my daughter sleeps
her sheet neatly folded beneath her chin
on the dressing table silkworms rear in gold

that I can pass my sons
frowning like fists against their pillows
their restless undertones bruise the room

that I can rummage a nightie from the drawer
slip into the dark slit behind your back
that the warmth flows across to me

makes me neither poet nor human
in the ambush of breath
I die into woman

 

© Translation: 2000, Antjie Krog
From: Down to my last skin
Publisher: Random House, South Africa,
ISBN: 0 9584195 5 8

 

***

 

my words of love grow more tenuous than the sound of lilac
my language frayed
dazed and softened I feel myself through your stubborn struggle

you still hold me close like no-one else
you still choose my side like no-one else
against your chest I lie and I confess
you hunt my every gesture
you catch up with me everywhere
you pull me down between bush and grass
on the footpath you turn me around
    so that I must look you in the eye
you kick me in the testicles
you shake me by the skin of my neck
you hold me, prick in the back, on the straight and narrow

 

© Translation: 2000, Antjie Krog
© Karen Press
From: Down to my last skin
Publisher: Random House, South Africa, 2000
ISBN: 0 9584195 5 8

 

***

 

NARRATIVE OF THE CATTLE FARMER

Uncle Jacobus de Wet talks in poems
‘near Jerusalem there are mountains
here alone with the goats in the veld
there are also mountains
but God is all around us
I feel him approaching all evening from the direction of Akkediskloof (Lizard Canyon)

my grandchild Benjamin does the herding
he told me so himself this morning
even said he wanted to be a cattle farmer
and I’m content
God has given everyone a talent
in the evenings in the pasture we don’t have to talk
we know which have been pastured and which have yet to be pastured
it’s a good life to give a child
every child has his honour
let me just say this
it is very pleasant to be with a grandchild
he makes you laugh
he lets you talk about things that aren’t really relevant
it’s good to be with a child

because you’re alone here day and night in the pasture with Jesus
you talk
you can lie back
and with clear eyes talk to him
you only have to look
because flesh notices flesh

the river lies defenceless
open vein in the heat
the landscape unthinkable without that brown-green cut
indestructible older than the oldest human breath on stone
he feeds the goats whether they live or die
there isn’t much of nothing here
there’s much too little of nothing here
the mountain on the other side looks as if it’s leaking
at midday it is extinguished in blue

I look at the watch
it’s twenty to three
and that means absolutely nothing
we doze between coolness and eating and heat

the sun sinks at last
the ridges echo with blaring as the big goats come in to pasture
the lambs are tied up and pulling at their tethers
nothing as soft as goat’s lamb
(my language remembers)
nothing so sweet snouty
sweet to the mouth defenceless-looking as goat’s lamb
towards evening
some get their mother’s tit some get a strange tit
from full blaring to flat blaring to lost blaring
to muffled blaring to whining blaring to spoiled blaring
to irritated bossy blaring

the satin of a lamb’s ear
slips through my hand
‘how do I tie my line to you my love
when the late light strikes stone’

a colour never comes alone she says
when the ridges float and fall in blue folds of satin

the pleated mountains turn to fire
and amber
the river stills into reflecting streaks of jelly
it’s feeling time and flying time
in the violence of colour and reeds
a heron flies silently through the valley
redbreast fly-catchers, tufted ducks, seed eaters
bunched in tassels on the grassy bank by my tent
the mountain hides its stone in the water

there’s a shivering of stone and river willows and reeds
frightened by sound a dove falls from the crag

I sleep on the bank of The River
the whole day it flows past me quiet and broad like blood
from a wound – above me lie the chippings of stars
the night opens itself –
soon colour loses its original way

 

© Translation: 2004, Richard Jürgens

 

***

 

NARRATIVE OUTSIDE THE PARK

Susara Domroch of Kubus
‘well I’ll vote for Grandpa Mandela
why is it that you’re someone these days if you’re Nama?
because we’re now our own word
under the old governments we were their word
for many years we were driven to the barren places
Coloured Reserves
we were nothing
but today we’re something
and it’s him, that Granddad Mandela, it’s him
no, Mandela’s lot have got my vote’

the church in Kubus stands white against the quartzite sky
and echoes its voice among the ridges
‘o God blow and bloom your love for us’
says Uncle Adam
the congregation sing with their hands on their hearts
‘yes Jesus is a rock
in a thi-ir-sty land
a thi-ir-sty land
a thi-ir-sty land
you are like breath to me
Je-sus Je-ee-ee-sus’
Kubus hangs on the edge of Raisin Mountain

God it takes a lot to survive out here

Mrs Farmer of Eksteensfontein

‘I’m just very attached to cattle
a house isn’t for me
but the open country
I grew up like this in the open country
in a little round house
when we came here it was raining
and the marigolds were growing high
when I squatted I sat under a floor of flowers
so I made a place of my own
that I still love
for the earth
for the country’

 

© Translation: 2004, Richard Jürgens

 

***

 

NEITHER FAMILY NOR FRIENDS

 

tonight everything speaks through the dead
towards me
your brittle bundle of bones
my longestloved beloved
lies lonely and longingly cradled somewhere lost
and lean
I am overwhelmingly awake tonight
of me so little has become
you are all I had in this world
beloved deathling
alone and cold it is behind my ribs
Africa had me giving up all
it is so dark
it is so bleak
soft beloved taunter
of me so little has become
I am down
to my last skin

 

 

© Translation: 2000, Antjie Krog
From: Down to my last skin
Publisher: Random House, South Africa,
ISBN: 0 9584195 5 8

 

 

***

 

 

SONGS OF THE BLUE CRANE

(//Kabbo sings the blue crane’s story; he sings over his shoulder that the berries of the karee tree are on his shoulder; he sings as he walks)

I

the berries are on my shoulder
the berries are on my shoulder
the berries, they’re on my shoulder
the berries are on my shoulder
the berries are here, above (on my shoulder)
Rrrú is here above
the berries are here above
rrrú is here above
is here above
the berries rrú are safe (on my shoulder)

II

(while he is running away from someone)
a splinter of stone that’s white
a splinter of stone that’s white
a splinter of stone that’s white

III

(while he is walking slowly, calmly and at a steady pace)
a white stone splinters
a white stone splinters

IV

(when he flaps his wings)
scrape (the springbok for) a bed
scrape (the springbok for) a bed
     Rrrrú rrra
     Rrrú rrra
     Rrú rra

 

Poet’s Note: According to //Kabbo, the blue crane describes his own white-feathered head, which has the form of a splintered stone. The Bushmen made stone tools for the hunt and for use as cutting implements.  

© Translation: 2004, Richard Jürgens

 

 

***

 

WHAT THE STARS SAY

 

(fragment)

the stars take your heart
because the stars aren’t the least bit hungry for you!
the stars exchange your heart for the heart of a star
the stars take your heart and feed you the heart of a star
then you’ll never be hungry again

because the stars say: ‘Tsau! Tsau!’
and the bushmen say the stars curse the springbok’s eyes
the stars say: ‘Tsau!’ they say: ‘Tsau! Tsau!’
they curse the springbok’s eyes
I grew up listening to the stars
the stars say: ‘Tsau! Tsau!’

it’s always summer when you hear the stars saying Tsau

 

 

© Translation: 2004, Richard Jürgens

 

***

 

Where I Become You

When your skin screamed my bones caught fire.
Hugo Claus

1.

you come to win me over
at the other end of the world
I hear your call
shivering night blue and blindly
bound by radiant bones

with you my head bitingly cold

unwillingly hairgrown
scentgirded
you begin to unfasten the I from the self
the inviolable once
you let loose in many

separating-laying-side-by-side
loosening one piece from another
so that the bonds seem incessantly to unfold
in the unbearably co-writing
breath of unsundered roses

to dis-
mantle
the I
from the also-I
the you
from the almost-
you-in-me

listen, you say, how un-
fathomably it grieves,
the profoundness of love

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

***

 

2.

your vowels die passing me
so close that I
could have been the one

endless the static cargo of stars
that sputtering in the night shackles us

but you that I could have been
but was not yet, you shuffle
stubbornly you sift to bestowed profusion

each leaf that falls
falls alone, I counter

your face grinds to a halt

I want
the I that is I
to stay

but where
does it begin,
this being-I?

at the place
where the I is like you
or there where the I is other than you?

my tongue goes deaf
your eyes coo from the sockets of the lost ones
just a breathlick of light
pomegranate pip light
between where I-am is
and not-you is

I decay – grit in the throat
your vowels die passing
so close
that my eyelid welds itself to your love

 

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

***

 

3.

stars tongueblind and dying in gravitation
you come
heartstained and upwards
you come
your crystal breath
and the mouthclose sound of birds

stars tongueblind
stars dying
stars breathtakingly closest galactic sight

unwon I must become
unfastened
with wrists that can pile up stars

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

 

***

 

4.

overwhelmed by the whisper of our
capacity to grip
this kneadable earth’s mantle

can I not be not-you
you not be no-one
we not be nowhere
the unheard-of befitting word
not be unsaid by us

my heart falters – more weightless than before
yet bridgeable

there where I am other than you
I begin
it’s true

but there where I am you
have become you
I sing beyond myself
light pulses of quicksilversong
a thing cast beyond all humankind

 

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

***

 

5.

dismantled starfoam
stripped
swaggering starheaps of ruin
dust that thickens latent and formless

gravity’s force imposes her will
and gone at once
all sheltering

vulnerably reeling clots form their blades of light
stars vulnerable
stars pockmarked

how the spiral arms linger
around the new stately tilting tenderness
how chaotic the swirling

starspittle
starfoamfog
we could have been the ones together
if we could have recruited each other more bloodily

but now you come to recover me
at the other end of this giddy world
to be taken-apart-set-down
the nails in blood
the milk in bones
the phosphorus in the cortex
we, yes we consist of stardust

stars tongueblind
stars dying
so unimaginably we roar
so gigantically we carry our equilibrium
that, when we are cold
we glow as we burn

 

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

***

 

6.

to reach the point
beyond the uttering of the I
the point
of the I so multitudinous
that it no longer matters
to say I
that the I is no longer itself
but discernible
multiples

of the hopelessly lovable shadows
of your collarbone

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

***

 

7.

the winter wind
my littlest
my leftbehind
jasmine-draped skull

describes our shadow against the stone
against the wall we are
one
but your wound
keeps reflecting if I
look at you
separately
from inside the scent of your deepest arm

 

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

***

 

8.

you
the true you
the yes-you
the grass still rustles from your ankles just
now each time I look up
turning away
departing
beloved
astral birdsong wrapped in night
come!
let a word come right through you
let more come than I
more than the undermining mine
the perjuring mine
the endlessly l-ing mine
let us become
unglowing nakedly
unmoved
that which we never
could have become alone

 

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

 

***

 

9.

autumn the singularity from your sleep before dawn
all signals roam through your tongue
and we hold each other’s blood in trust
my lived one
my faithsong enraptured

your non-negotiable breath
makes of us separate ones
in the course of time
o my embodied love
lingering in gravity, all-powerful: us

 

 

Poet’s Note: .

Background Sources:
Govert Schilling, Evoluerend Heelal – de biografie van de kosmos, Fontaine Uitgewers Davidsfonds/Leuven, 2003
Paul Celan, Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan (translated by John Felstiner), W.W. Norton New York & London, 2001

© Translation: 2009, Karen Press

Poems published with the kind permission by Poetry International Web

 

 

 

 

 

 

 *********************************************

birth

 

at last this lovely little mammoth godawful in roses and blood

straining lovely between my legs tore loose

tumbled, no slipped out besmeared into my arms yelling birth

yelling pain yelling strength oh I throb throb throb about my

boychild my onlyest my loveliest my smallest my most superlative sound

wash him with colostrum

his arms next to his body wrap him in nappies

in a manger of songs shy murmurs from a twilight room

and feed him

feed him oh free feed him from my heart

 

(Translated by Denis Hirson)

 

 

 

how and with what?

 

I dig rennets from the sink sieve

oats and rinds burp into the drain outside the window

the nappy liners are being stunk out into the toilet

the dirty nappies sunlight soaped

bottoms washed powdered

the one cries with hunger

the other with anger

the eldest with his nervous vegetable knife voice

carves a whole superman flight through the noise

 

my man closes the door against us all

and turns up the Mozart piano concerto

 

and I go crazy

 

my voice yells a mixerpulpershreddermincer

my nose leaks like a fridge

my eyes quake like eggs in boiling water

my ears are post boxes pouting with calendars and junk mail

my children assault me with their rowdiness

           selfishness

           cheekiness

           destructiveness

their fears complexes insecurities threats needs

           beat my “image as mother” into soft steak on the wooden floor

I smell of vomit and shit and sweat

           of semen and leeks

I illustrate a kitchen

           with hair whipping dull against novilon skin

           the milk coupons of my back bent uninterestedly inside the gown

           the legs veined like blue soap

           slippers like pot scourers

I sulk like a flour bag

I am chipped like a jug

my hands drier and older than yesterday’s toast

give half-hearted slaps against the clamour

 

I go outside and sit on the step this Sunday morning

neither sober nor embarrassed

wondering

 

how and with what does one survive this?

 

(Translated by Denis Hirson)

 

Narrative outside the park

 

Susara Domroch of Kubus

‘well I’ll vote for Grandpa Mandela

why is it that you’re someone these days if you’re Nama?

because we’re now our own word

under the old governments we were their word

for many years we were driven to the barren places

Coloured Reserves

we were nothing

but today we’re something

and it’s him, that Granddad Mandela, it’s him

no, Mandela’s lot have got my vote’

 

the church in Kubus stands white against the quartzite sky

and echoes its voice among the ridges

‘o God blow and bloom your love for us’

says Uncle Adam

the congregation sing with their hands on their hearts

‘yes Jesus is a rock

in a thi-ir-sty land

a thi-ir-sty land

a thi-ir-sty land

you are like breath to me

Je-sus Je-ee-ee-sus’

Kubus hangs on the edge of Raisin Mountain

 

God it takes a lot to survive out here

 

Mrs Farmer of Eksteensfontein

‘I’m just very attached to cattle

a house isn’t for me

but the open country

I grew up like this in the open country

in a little round house

when we came here it was raining

and the marigolds were growing high

when I squatted I sat under a floor of flowers

so I made a place of my own

that I still love

for the earth

for the country’

 

(Translated by Richard Jürgens) 

***

 

 

for my son

 

the earth hangs unfinished

and when the wind starts

the child stands in Kloof Street with his school bag

 

child of mine! I call to his back

there where my heart is tightest

 

as always I am elsewhere

I think him into almonds

and arms full of pulled up light

I trace his whispers in my matrix of blood

 

shyly the child shoots across the street

the wind takes his orthodontic drool

 

it is me

          your mother

but his eyes are on the brink of leaving me

the earth lies unfinished

the wind splinters from him all that is child

and I tighten about him

past guilt past all neglect

 

I love him

way

way beyond heart

 

(Translated by the poet)

 ***

  

letter-poem lullaby for Ntombizana Atoo

 

 

1.

 

hush-hush

sleep-a-bye

sweet

sleep soft

sleep whole

sleep blackly tilted

 

childest child of mine

childling born wet born now

 

outside orbits the earth

so ah and you

so softly bloused in blue

 

let wind take your nostrils

let earth take eyes and ears and tongue

let fire let rain take your skin

 

inside crackles your tongue

your fists tiny roses clenched in plum

you     you lay in a baylet

for the last time made holy by blood and yourself

shush now

shush now

 

childkin black     childkin veld

childkin nobody

to nothing ever held

childkin breast      childkin thirst

 

hush-hush

sleep-a-bye

sweet

sleep soft

sleep whole

sleep blackly tilted

 

 

2.

 

the wind is all over the sky

with my voice on its way to you

you who lies irrefutably stippled

somewhere in cloth and herb

in songlets and pain

your vertebrae curving against what’s to come

hold on dear child

against it all

 

that you could see the earth

clinging with suns and moons and comets and meteorites

the windfiltered sky

in tufts of fire tomatoes fly out among leaves

the moon reports in milk

in the thorn trees next to the road

     the stars also hum their way to you

you have to see

you have to hear how the sun lures the wind over your threshold

taste how the water changes to still ivory plates in the setting sun

 

dear child the earth glows of heaven

 

 

3.

 

I will come and claim you from bones and bullets and violence and aids

from muteness from stupidity from the corrupt faces of men

I’ll gather you from millions of refugees

from hunger and thirst from the damp of cries and the stink of tolerated grief

the desperate mangle of dreams

from the back I’ll recognise the brave stalk of your neck

I will catch up with you

and pull you out by the arm

 

because you have to see differently

for us Africans – us the children of the abyss

we all have to balance differently

this continent drifting like a big black plundered heart on the globe

continent that is us

continent throbbing with blood in the vast ventricles of desert

     and forest savannah and stone

forlorn continent

on which so many lost figures commit lost deeds of forlorn trust

big aggressive heart on which thousands die daily without sound

decaying in heaps

into raking brooms of bones

 

I want it to be you my smallest

that between your ribs

you have to feel the tremor that things have to be different

that something has to become true of what we are

 

that what we are as Africans is something so soft so humanly skinned

so profoundly constitutionally big and light and kind as soul

so caring as to surpass all understanding

 

motho ke motho ke batho babang

rather

we are what we are because we are of each other

 

why do we keep on then being so wrong?

 

I lay my cheek next to yours

I want to breathe into you

to care

to care

hush-hush

 

 

4.

 

I want to join your shoulderblades into tiny wings

     to breast the roaming despair

lovely thing I am so close to you your cheek lies in peach down

your necklet wobbles this side that side

next to your mother who sleeps with her head turned towards you

do you hear me?

everything is so lucid tonight

your mouth has loosened a little from the breast

do you hear me?

I who am all-that-is-white

who am lightningwhite and indissolubly always only myself

I want you to make this continent yours

     bask in your hands this morose mumbling heart

     cradle it so that Africa at last splays out its clogged crooked valves

     rig its full sails to the wind and navigate the earth in celebration

it has become yours

it has become mine

it is ours

 

dark outside

a chain rustles and I hear magazines slip off into the grass

I stop breathing and bend over you

my finger touching your fist

which slips open and holds me immediately

tightly

your mother stirs

loveliest thinniken thing I have just come to say hi!

and welcome

and that something of me will go with you

and that you needn’t know of it

 

 

5.

 

weep

weep for the past centuries and their defeated mutilated survivors

weep for the injustice and the closed perspective of greed

 

how does one become new?

how does one find a mechanism into the future

underneath all this dictatorial dust and portions of obese scum

 

the moment that humanity lifts her head

let us recognise it!

 

because the heart waits on her banner

 

my eyes screw loose

on the road to the millennium

 

may the coming epoch belong to Africa

revealed by an obstinate landscape of words

and a little girl with wild plaits and cheeky slender neck

making poems along the dusty road singing forward the way…

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

 

because of you

 

because of you

this country no longer lies

between us but within

it breathes becalmed

after being wounded

in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull

it sings, it ignites

my tongue, my inner ear, the cavity of heart

shudders towards the outline

new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

of my soul the retina learns to expand

daily because of a thousand stories

I was scorched

a new skin.

I am changed for ever. I want to say:

f o rgive me

f o rgive me

f o rgive me

You whom I have wronged, please

take me

with you.

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 ***

 

Body Bereft

 

wednesday 18 june

over my terrified

body my hand moves again up to

my breast again hoping

that the lump of clay will not be there

that the hand misconstrued

that it has indeed vanished in the

 

meantime. the mountain stands

stripped clean and burnt through. I live by the

breath of the mountain alone.

I have no other competence. on

the windward side fringes of light sing, on

the lee side there is nought

 

from the waist you

blindly suppose yourself

secretly whole, you try to defuse

 

your body’s insurgence

against your body. let the stone lump

grow cold in the fog, let

the pine trees tilt like umbrellas in

a cortège, let my thoughts

steam to ripeness in sorrow. but I,

 

I am occupied this

morning: softly I coax my breasts to

unwind in foam, let them

freely drowse in tranquil fragrance, then

I rinse them in honey

to luminous shape and there where the

 

mammogram reveals its

blackest clot, I lather in light, I

caress with the sweetest

tonality of breath, of light-limbed

tintinnabulous bliss

there the light soaks in so blindingly

 

that the black membrane feels

itself blessed by blue, diluting its

viscous toxic polyps,

dissolving them to effluence. see

the rust bleed like biestings

from my nipples. Whole like a whiplash

 

I want to live on this earth.

                                                (late night)

fuck-all. I feel fuck-all

for the life hereafter – it’s now that

I want to live, here that

 

I want to live. when I

look at you I grow sad, oh yes as

sad as the heart can see

 

sunday 22 june

my heart

whimpers on her hinges. I want to

touch something, hold something,

revive the wholeness that once was mine.

 

I want to return with

my previous body. I am not

I, without my body

only through my body can I in-

habit this earth. my soul

is my body entire. my body

 

embodies what I am.

do not turn against me, oh do not

ever leave me. do not

cave in around me, do not plummet

away from me, do not

die off on me, do not leave me with-

out testimony. I

have a body, therefore I am. step

into the breach for me –

yes, you are my only mandate to

engage the earth in love.

 

monday 23 june

the last rains of winter fall

faster than yearning or winter trees

with lymphatic systems

against the wintry light. it’s as if

I am young again in

my upper arms suddenly, and smooth

 

at the back of my head.

my body glows complete, my elbows

hang free with my senses

extended over my skin. I see

the mountain, maintaining

herself on her cliffs, containing her-

 

self in stone as stone, her-

self complete in herself. she decays

with the earth in the tongue

of eternity. I can do nought

but ascend in her with

roaring immaculate radiance

 

sunday 3 october

steadily the days curve

more brightly over me. the blossoms

are crushed by the wind. on

some inclines I shall never saunter

again. from the earliest

times you have been identified daily

 

and appropriated with

eyes and inhalations. only in

some imaginations

are you methodically flaked off.

my heart knows that you have

nothing to do with us, that you are

 

lost deep in the concept

of mountain, that the word mountain is

an abstract noun, that blue

is a verb, stone a friend, for next to

you I become she and

she he and we irrevocably

 

become us, because you

remain you. all in-

cantations of yearning

tilt in my chest. my pulse resounds with

poems and axillary

feathers, my blazing gizzard

 

buzzes with rhyme. I hone

my heart to yours. I shall never let

you leave me. words my mouth

will lose – my seams will be undone – I

speak many tongues but not

one of them any longer my own

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

 

for my son

 

the earth hangs unfinished

and when the wind starts

the child stands in Kloof Street with his school bag

 

child of mine! I call to his back

there where my heart is tightest

 

as always I am elsewhere

I think him into almonds

and arms full of pulled up light

I trace his whispers in my matrix of blood

 

shyly the child shoots across the street

the wind takes his orthodontic drool

 

it is me

          your mother

but his eyes are on the brink of leaving me

the earth lies unfinished

the wind splinters from him all that is child

and I tighten about him

past guilt past all neglect

 

I love him

way

way beyond heart

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

 

my words of love

 

my words of love grow more tenuous than the sound of lilac

my language frayed

dazed and softened I feel myself through your stubborn struggle

 

you still hold me close like no-one else

you still choose my side like no-one else

against your chest I lie and I confess

you hunt my every gesture

you catch up with me everywhere

you pull me down between bush and grass

on the footpath you turn me around

    so that I must look you in the eye

you kick me in the testicles

you shake me by the skin of my neck

you hold me, prick in the back, on the straight and narrow

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

the day surrenders to its sadness

 

the day surrenders to its sadness

over palm tree and roof the rain reigns mercilessly

the small white house with trellis and high verandah

stands like a warm cow her backside to the rain

eyes tightly shut

 

inside a woman moves from window to window

as beautiful as sunlight through vine leaves

as beautiful the drops on green

the rain on avocado bark

on the flintstone of leaves

the bougainvillaea sparkling wet, sly

keel green on apricots

 

the double hibiscus groans desperate and red in the dark

 

the intimacy inside is tangible

children sleeping damp in their room

the man in front of the heater

with art book cigarette and wine his eyes

glance up somewhat drenched in love

 

dusk snuffles softly against the gutters

a woman wanders from one steamed window to another

and sees the house constantly from an outside perspective

disabled and thanks to the light in every window

barely conscious of the total magnitude

 

a warm cow her backside to the rain

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

 

latin-american love song

 

neither the moist intimacy of your eyelids fair as fennel

nor the violence of your body withholding behind sheets

nor what comes to me as your life

will have so much slender mercy for me

as to see you sleeping

 

perhaps I see you sometimes

for the first time

 

you with your chest of guava and grape

your hands cool as spoons

your haughty griefs stain every corner blue

 

we will endure with each other

 

even if the sun culls the rooftops

even if the state cooks clichés

we will fill our hearts with colour

and the fireworks of finches

even if my eyes ride a rag to the horizon

even if the moon comes bareback

even if the mountain forms a conspiracy against the night

 

we will persist with each other

sometimes I see you for the first time

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

 

marital psalm

 

this marriage is my shepherd

I shall not want

in a swoon he loves me

and lusts after me with disconcerting fitness

man who makes me possible

(though I can fight him spectacularly)

(the way we make a double bed

shows an undivided indestructible pact)

 

sometimes he catches me by the hind leg

as one big piece of solid treachery

persecutes me

fucks me day and night

violates every millimetre of private space

smothers every glint in my eye which could lead to writing

 

“do our children successfully in respectable schools have to see

how their friends read about their mother’s splashing cunt

and their father’s perished cock

I mean my wife

jesus! somewhere a man’s got to draw the line”

 

I will fear no evil

the rod and the staff they comfort me

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

 

stripping

 

while you undress

I watch through my lashes

that bloody thick cock

prudish and self-righteous it hangs

head neatly wrinkled and clear cut

about its place between the balls – wincing in my direction

 

and I think of its years and years of conquest

night after fucking night through pregnancies

menstruation abortion pill-indifference

sorrow how many lectures given honours

received shopping done with semen dripping

on the everyday pad from all sides

that blade cuts

 

that cock goddamit does more than conquer

it determines how generous the mood

how matter-of-fact how daring the expenditure

standing upright it is bend or open-up

and you better be impressed my sister

not merely lushy or horny

but in bloody awe, yes!

everything every godfucking thing revolves around the maintenance of cock

and the thing has no heart no brain no soul

it’s dictatorial a fat-lipped autocrat

it besieges the reclusive clitoris

a mister’s Mister

 

somewhere you note numbers and statistics

that morning in Paris and again that night

your hands full of tit

 

I am waiting for the day

oh I look forward to the day the cock crumbles

that it doesn’t want to

that in a rosepoint pout it swings only hither and dither

that it doesn’t ever want to flare

but wiggle waggles unwillingly

boils over like a jam pot or fritters away like a balloon

 

and come it will come

because rumour has it

that for generations

the women in my family kapater their men with

yes with stares

oh jesus, and then we slither away like fertile snakes in the grass

taking shit from nobody

and they tell me

my aunts and my nieces and sisters they laugh and tell me

how one’s body starts chatting then how it dances into tune

at last coming home to its own juices

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

 

birth

 

at last this lovely little mammoth godawful in roses and blood

straining lovely between my legs tore loose

tumbled, no slipped out besmeared into my arms yelling birth

yelling pain yelling strength oh I throb throb throb about my

boychild my onlyest my loveliest my smallest my most superlative sound

wash him with colostrum

his arms next to his body wrap him in nappies

in a manger of songs shy murmurs from a twilight room

and feed him

feed him oh free feed him from my heart

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

 

how and with what?

 

I dig rennets from the sink sieve

oats and rinds burp into the drain outside the window

the nappy liners are being stunk out into the toilet

the dirty nappies sunlight soaped

bottoms washed powdered

the one cries with hunger

the other with anger

the eldest with his nervous vegetable knife voice

carves a whole superman flight through the noise

 

my man closes the door against us all

and turns up the Mozart piano concerto

 

and I go crazy

 

my voice yells a mixerpulpershreddermincer

my nose leaks like a fridge

my eyes quake like eggs in boiling water

my ears are post boxes pouting with calendars and junk mail

my children assault me with their rowdiness

           selfishness

           cheekiness

           destructiveness

their fears complexes insecurities threats needs

           beat my “image as mother” into soft steak on the wooden floor

I smell of vomit and shit and sweat

           of semen and leeks

I illustrate a kitchen

           with hair whipping dull against novilon skin

           the milk coupons of my back bent uninterestedly inside the gown

           the legs veined like blue soap

           slippers like pot scourers

I sulk like a flour bag

I am chipped like a jug

my hands drier and older than yesterday’s toast

give half-hearted slaps against the clamour

 

I go outside and sit on the step this Sunday morning

neither sober nor embarrassed

wondering

 

how and with what does one survive this?

 

(Translated by the poet)

 

 

***

 

 

neither family nor friends says Lady Anne Barnard

 

tonight everything speaks through the dead

towards me

your brittle bundle of bones

my longest loved beloved

lies lonely and longingly cradled somewhere lost

and lean

I am overwhelmingly awake tonight

of me so little has become

you are all I had in this world

beloved deathling

alone and cold it is behind my ribs

Africa had me giving up all

it is so dark

it is so bleak

soft beloved taunter

of me so little has become

I am down

to my last skin

 

(Translated by Karen Press)

 

 

 

Where I Become You

When your skin screamed my bones caught fire.

Hugo Claus

 

1.

you come to win me over

at the other end of the world

I hear your call

shivering night blue and blindly

bound by radiant bones

 

with you my head bitingly cold

 

unwillingly hairgrown

scentgirded

you begin to unfasten the I from the self

the inviolable once

you let loose in many

 

separating-laying-side-by-side

loosening one piece from another

so that the bonds seem incessantly to unfold

in the unbearably co-writing

breath of unsundered roses

 

to dis-

mantle

the I

from the also-I

the you

from the almost-

you-in-me

 

listen, you say, how un-

fathomably it grieves,

the profoundness of love

 

2.

your vowels die passing me

so close that I

could have been the one

 

endless the static cargo of stars

that sputtering in the night shackles us

 

but you that I could have been

but was not yet, you shuffle

stubbornly you sift to bestowed profusion

 

each leaf that falls

falls alone, I counter

 

your face grinds to a halt

 

I want

the I that is I

to stay

 

but where

does it begin,

this being-I?

 

at the place

where the I is like you

or there where the I is other than you?

 

my tongue goes deaf

your eyes coo from the sockets of the lost ones

just a breathlick of light

pomegranate pip light

between where I-am is

and not-you is

 

I decay – grit in the throat

your vowels die passing

so close

that my eyelid welds itself to your love

 

3.

stars tongueblind and dying in gravitation

you come

heartstained and upwards

you come

your crystal breath

and the mouthclose sound of birds

 

stars tongueblind

stars dying

stars breathtakingly closest galactic sight

 

unwon I must become

unfastened

with wrists that can pile up stars

 

4.

overwhelmed by the whisper of our

capacity to grip

this kneadable earth’s mantle

 

can I not be not-you

you not be no-one

we not be nowhere

the unheard-of befitting word

not be unsaid by us

 

my heart falters – more weightless than before

yet bridgeable

 

there where I am other than you

I begin

it’s true

 

but there where I am you

have become you

I sing beyond myself

light pulses of quicksilversong

a thing cast beyond all humankind

 

5.

dismantled starfoam

stripped

swaggering starheaps of ruin

dust that thickens latent and formless

 

gravity’s force imposes her will

and gone at once

all sheltering

 

vulnerably reeling clots form their blades of light

stars vulnerable

stars pockmarked

 

how the spiral arms linger

around the new stately tilting tenderness

how chaotic the swirling

 

starspittle

starfoamfog

we could have been the ones together

if we could have recruited each other more bloodily

 

but now you come to recover me

at the other end of this giddy world

to be taken-apart-set-down

the nails in blood

the milk in bones

the phosphorus in the cortex

we, yes we consist of stardust

 

stars tongueblind

stars dying

so unimaginably we roar

so gigantically we carry our equilibrium

that, when we are cold

we glow as we burn

 

6.

to reach the point

beyond the uttering of the I

the point

of the I so multitudinous

that it no longer matters

to say I

that the I is no longer itself

but discernible

multiples

 

of the hopelessly lovable shadows

of your collarbone

 

7.

the winter wind

my littlest

my leftbehind

jasmine-draped skull

 

describes our shadow against the stone

against the wall we are

one

but your wound

keeps reflecting if I

look at you

separately

from inside the scent of your deepest arm

 

8.

you

the true you

the yes-you

the grass still rustles from your ankles just

now each time I look up

turning away

departing

beloved

astral birdsong wrapped in night

come!

let a word come right through you

let more come than I

more than the undermining mine

the perjuring mine

the endlessly l-ing mine

let us become

unglowing nakedly

unmoved

that which we never

could have become alone

 

9.

autumn the singularity from your sleep before dawn

all signals roam through your tongue

and we hold each other’s blood in trust

my lived one

my faithsong enraptured

 

your non-negotiable breath

makes of us separate ones

in the course of time

o my embodied love

lingering in gravity, all-powerful: us

 

(Translated by Karen Press)

 

 

***

 

 

colonialism of a special kind: 2
 

what becomes of those who choose to live on the earth lightly
here today there tomorrow
the only trace that they leave
the language of grass and trees

what becomes of them?

what becomes of those who choose to care for everyone
who always seek out the place of humanity in rich and poor
who cannot endure that people suffer

what becomes of them?

the earth belongs to the mighty
and the abundance thereof
the world and all who live in it

what becomes of them?

 

(Translated by Tony Ullyatt)

 

 

 

Closed Gate

 

Nonetheless let me break through
the hedge of your eyes just once
so that I can know
if it is for me
that you are growing white jasmine.

 

(Translated by Tony Ullyatt)

 

 

 

Haiku I

 

to possess your joy
is to be living in a
day which never breaks

 

(Translated by Tony Ullyatt)

 

 

 

Stay with Me

 

stay with me
        when it rains
        so that my sorrow can be small

stay with me
        with the fold of your hands
        so that the wind blows past my ears

stay with me
        with your white owlet
        so that I forget about my dying

stay with me
        when the earth’s lower half cracks
        and my small island sinks in the night.

 

(Translated by Tony Ullyatt)

 

 

 

I would

(for John)

 

I dearly want to make you happy
I would write verse for you
        sober and supple as you are
I would sing for you
        each night while you sleep
I would give myself to you
        still as a fever tree
        sweet and open like medlars
                like mopanies in the autumn
                like marulas in the summer
        brown and whole like baobabs
        fiery like the bleeding hands of a coral tree
I dearly want to give you something to carry
that will remain with you like a little warm lizard
one day when you sit, old and all alone, in the sun.

 

(Translated by Tony Ullyatt)

 

 

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