Posts Tagged ‘Helize van Vuuren huldig N.P. van Wyk Louw’

N.P. van Wyk Louw 50. Helize van Vuuren (Vertaling in Engels)

Friday, March 20th, 2020




Five love-poems from N.P. van Wyk Louw’s Tristia and other poems, preludes and fugues 1950–1957 (Human & Rousseau, 1962/1973)



Becoming nude


Down now the dark-red jacket glides,

first from the left and then the right shoulder,

then over the dark head the grey jersey slides

and in their bra the small breasts come alive


then her crossed hands shoot up past armpit bushes

quickly crossed, and in an instant drop

the ribbons and the two white nests

while over their dale the tiny twin peaks quiver


as she crosses again the arms a-shiver

takes the shoulder knobs, and above the rose-red

nipples and six white bridges of the ribs

the sun-brown of her elbows trembles


linen-pieces hang empty on a chair

and barely sway; shoes fall one by one,

with many stirrups the stockings come away

and before me in the light brief you stand


then the whole of you emerge, brown with white,

the rounded muscles of the thighs around the black.




He searches for the ideal woman: the “eternal mistress”,

she “who does not want to marry” and become a “dairy”,

she who “will not see the man as

a breakfast-ticket or insurance policy”:

the boy-girl, the girl-boy,

freed of the biological,

with the more-or-less little breasts

depending on what needs to be accentuated:

jock-strap or bra.

He sits and sniffs, now,

mostly, and writes, and rubs sweat across his bald pate;

and his club fills up at twelve o’clock

with old gentlemen each on his own coming to enquire

– with indirect remarks (never questions!) –

whether one of the members has ever caught

the vague indirect mistress entrapped in truth.




Farewell in Brown


Now I want to see you in a kind of mediterranean

clarity, one last time: walking in sneakers or string sandals

over a sun-sealed beach;

or up in a warm street where buses struggle uphill,

stop at hotels, wait for lights.


Come, I will offer you the last, the

bright shining respect, that

which shines from inns where there is birthing,

shimmers out also from lonely tasks

which in the shrine (help me, St. Joseph!)

of work are being completed:


̵  Allow me the word! Oh You, bless the word:

You, before whom as Path-grader

Gabriel with tiny rainbow-feathers

came to lay in your ear the Other Word

for contemplation later. Allow me the word:


earthy words (oh Beloved like earth):

allow her, she who never has had rest, now to rest:

(brown as brown people, brown as umbrian

pain-inducing terra-cotta, brown, yes,

like the baked earth from near Siena –)


brown skin from a cheap alley – this too may –

of Amsterdam, and the brownness of the world

near the market of this Old Barcelona

where cantaloupes and watermelons

and young constables stare at each other.


(Oh “brown”, which You: Lord and God, blessed

in your brown son of a jew who in Galilee

had to walk a footpath, and sat against the mountain

and talked, and in the ship there

from afar could make a great noise heard.)


Lovely, small, woman: in the radiant reverence

which I, walking, attentively, offer you: take:

the white water of Tarragona, the naked

and the white of the mediterranean

almost-not-knowing, wind-skew knowing full-well.




We cannot talk: not you with me:

because in my sour love

your words flounder like drowning flies;

I not with you: where I talk

I know that each word of mine

is awaited behind the doors

of your ear, throttled

by your quiet hatred. Not us, neither

psychologists, nor psychiatrists can break

open the salt crust of the desert.

Only a godhead could succour:

make the desert turn green again

which has deposited its arid, parched

verneukpan-like mud in us;

cause water to break out in the dry pan

and wedge crowbars under

my logical intellectuality.




She will never come. Do not listen.

Do not wait. Expect nothing.

Unlearn to expect. Unlearn waiting.

Unlearn listening. Unlearn.


  • Translated from the Afrikaans by Helize van Vuuren



More English versions of Afrikaans poems, as translated by Helize van Vuuren, are available at:


“Greeting in Brown”

“She will never come”