Monday, June 1, 2020

SINGULARITY

She wanted to slip out of her complex mind;
she wanted to slip
out of the museum of many names,
where each thing is inventoried, ordered, shelved;

she wanted to find a place
where the shell of language was soft enough
for her to edge her way
into the silent heat before thought ever was.

And each morning she would wake
with the half-formed memory of escape
still on her lips, the dishevelment
of her night’s journey.
And the same old familiar world was all around her,
and oh, it was lovely, it was terribly beautiful;
she would stretch her arms towards the sky outside,
try to keep her mind empty and innocent.
But always, before she could stop them, the layers were there:
the thick, multiple scatter of many words,
the sheltering clothes against her naked skin.

 - Jacques Coetzee

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Laughing

White daisies completely cover
the dunes,
fronting a blue-green sea –
as if they were laughing:

at the time we were told
we couldn’t bathe here, because
whites
weren’t allowed
on that beach.

– Silke Heiss, 28th August 2019

Monday, May 25, 2020

fluweelagtige verwarring

sy en haar rebelese ribbes kom lê
onder die goeiste genade groen van die bome
haar bene bulder van verligting om 
vry van stoel te wees
haar agsiestog arms wil net wegsink 
in die spierkragtige sintaksis
van somer
haar wag-‘n-bietjie wange bloos van 
die lekkerkry van haar verbeelding
haar dragtige duime kan nie wag
om lofliedere oor sy vel te baar

deur die geweldlose gordyne sien
hy haar baanbrekende borste
hy lig sy waansinnige wenkbroue
en gaan staan styf teen die koel malvapoeding mure

hy mik-mik na haar 
maar die kniehalterende tafelhoeke
en slinkse stofballe pootjie hom 
hy bly tuur na buite waar 
die bloeiende ballonne net nie wil stol
die lug slaan uit vol kneusplekke in pleitende pers

al wat hom sal red is 
'n piromaniese pasaangeër
sy sal dan dalk in sy hart begin kan glo

sy sien die triestige tarentaal oor 
die hygende hoofweg hol
die migrerende marionette weet nie waarheen!
alles voel soos fluweelagtige verwarring

vreesaanjaende frikatiewe glip uit haar mond

haar beneukte boude kry uiteindelik sit
soos wat die waaghalsige wolke
die roekelose donker invaar

sy klim binne-in die kabbelende kerslig
en vou haar woorde een-vir-een uit 
oor die pruimedantkleurige papier

 - Lara Kirsten

Friday, May 22, 2020

THE RAGE FOR ORDER AT CAFÉ GANESH
(With Apology to Wallace Stevens)

Clear heads we must have had still,
stumbling out of a winter night
into that sudden din—
all those strangers sitting at their ease
under the same roof. I imagined
soft, warm lighting, even though
I couldn’t see it.

We had been drawn together, us four,
by the slow, stubborn love of words,
the slow fever in the brain
that sets us raging at the broken world,
to call it to order.

Ah, but the world was stronger that night.
It beckoned to us through the PA system
in the voice of a Bob Marley,
begging us, commanding us to gather ourselves
up into a dance
around a central point without a name
in any book of words.

And we just sat there, sentences left unfinished,
our faces relaxing into slow mirth,
as the faces of men do who think too much;
the place where each of us ended
and everything else began
slowly becoming imprecise, confused
as the wine and music mingled.

Pale Wallace Stevens, so beautifully sober,
composing verses in your Sunday best,
tell us: how could we learn to phrase the broken world
and set it singing, except
from such unmoorings? From where this rage for clarity
and pure, unruffled air
if not out of last night’s dishevelment?

 - Jacques Coetzee

Monday, May 18, 2020

Beside our table

The food was better
than I remembered, and
the ambience quieter than

anywhere else in Hogsback,
tonight, under the three-quarter moon,

overlooking the eager
wide hearth; overhearing
the family’s voices –

their chamber
of peace
beside our table.

– Silke Heiss, 11th August 2019

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The seed

I wanted to paint
the night sky for you, to bring it
into our house, to remind us
never to be small; never to forget
to trust the rhythms
that conceal the stars,
only to reveal them again the next night
whether we see them or not.

And instead I have brought you
this seed, which I painted
on a quiet afternoon, when it seemed
as if my juices
had shrivelled, and the tide
of my desire was going out for good.

Slowly I dipped a brush
into acrylic paint of different colours;
then an index finger only,
creating lines across the fine paper
as if I knew where I was going.

Let it be so, then: I bring you
the medicine of this small, dark seed
which came about in an instant
when I was listening for something else.
I think it whispers that something
will survive: some spark
from the great fire
that will burn on when you and I and it
have completed our last transformation.

 - Jacques Coetzee

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Monday, February 24, 2020

Faith with himself

The frown
of concentration
on the car guard's brow

as he directs 
the metal herd
into and out of tight spaces –

his total focus
(whether or not there's a coin in his hand)
tells his mettle:

a man who builds,
holds faith with himself,
by working.

– Silke Heiss, 11th December 2019

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Water lily

The lily on the water
is a castle –
crystal towers,
amethyst ablaze
with light.

– Silke Heiss, 16th December 2019

Monday, February 17, 2020

Lilies

They'd always bloomed black.
None came up the year you died.
None have budded since.

But – three summers down the line –
a fresh flower surprises
the year's last dawn –
in pink.

– Silke Heiss, 31st December 2019

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

vulpine

i want to write 
a vulpine poem
              that sneaks  
     into 
the darkest                     crevice 
      without 
being spotted
                        sniffs
                        at 
all the corners of
              delectable flesh
keeping silent and                         sneaky 
as much as its wild bristly hair will allow

i want to write 

a vulpine poem
that        treads           so            soft
that the only              trace that 
will be discerned
is its                   feral aroma 
clinging 
   to 
the 
   shadows

 - Lara Kirsten

Monday, February 10, 2020

In thrall

A terrace of tied-up umbrellas –
like girded nuns they billow
hoods and breasts and habits,
turning wildly:
underneath high palms, 
who lean back:

leaves, like scraggly hair a-flowing,
storeys of starlings blowing
to and away from
ragged stems –

as froth explodes from rocks
by the shore, and air
is filled
with gulls, who hazard all –

stubborn, white-black bodies
in thrall, before the rain starts pelting down.

– Silke Heiss, 19th January 2020

Thursday, February 6, 2020

seëvier

ek sit in 'n vliegtuig
en net hier agter my sit 'n jong vrou
en gesels oor die trefkrag van die rymende koeplet
hierlangs my begin 'n swart man te klets oor 
die metafoor waaraan hy timmer en skaaf 
en waarmee hy eendag die wêreld gaan oorneem
voor my sit 'n gryskopman en bespiegel oor
die medisinale gebruike van sonette
en wat die beste manier is om dit in te kry - 
snuif, inspuit, sluk of rook?
oorkant die paadjie sit 'n Indiër man 
en wonder hardop (met sy oë toe) hoe sy ragas 
gaan klink in kombinasie met die resiteer van 'n handvol haiku
die lugwaardin loop verby met haar trollie
en bied aan 'n keuse tussen komplimentêre limerieke en odes
deur die luidsprekers breek die vlieënier se stem 
en in vrye vers besing hy die wondere van vlieg

slaap ek dalk? ek knyp myself aan die dy

want ek kan dit nie glo -
wat 'n digterlike vlug!

die volgende oomblik staan ek vrymoedig op
vokaliseer hardop my mees onlangse gedig
waai koebaai 
en spring uit die naaste nood-uitgang
 - sonder valskerm -

as die poësie so seëvier

dan sal ek verseker vanself ook kan vlieg

 - Lara Kirsten

Monday, February 3, 2020

It taught us vapour

Thick mist on the pass
taught us –

you can't see the road,
but it is there –

you can't see far, so
take it slow, around

the many bends. Truth, too,
is not straightforward,

is soft and secretive,
concealing what will be,

as vapour does,
on earth.

- Silke Heiss, 23rd January 2020

Thursday, January 23, 2020

With the stones

This morning, in my dream, we sat
close together, near the smooth stones
you carried from Roundstone Beach
all those years ago.

I sat down there next to you as the sun rose
(though in truth you were still fast asleep
in the bed we share). And our hands moved
slowly over the stones, as if remembering
some ancient journey.

You told me once: if these
can become smooth and round and large like this,
knocking about in that cold Atlantic sea,
maybe we too could become less jagged,
less sharp-edged and brittle.

Ah, but now you are awake,
and the air around us
is suddenly crisp and urgent, and our thoughts turn
from the calm smoothness of stone
towards blood and skin. Today we give thanks
for the urgency of touch
that cannot wait; for all
our many rough edges: each scar, blemish and dent,
each sharp word that jolts us

into awareness of these late summer days,
turning already towards autumn—
and each particular leaf about to fall.

 - Jacques Coetzee

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The black sky

And the black sky,
and the little house white-washed –

the light cuts like a square green interior
the window, with a woman looking out,
and outside, our side, a child
saunters past.

What do we need?

A boy, and a dog, on the grey pavement,
the night sky black

as if it is the outside of everything,
like the frame,

an unreachable beyond
not in the picture,

of it.

 - Brian Walter

Monday, January 13, 2020

List of numbers

I still keep their numbers
in the file labelled “telephone list”
on my slow computer:

one for the man who read back my half-formed poems to me
in a monotonous voice, daring me to throw them
away, until I slowly learned
to sing more softly, urgently;

one for the man who fed me olives and whiskey
though it must have been clear by then my being straight
was not just a passing phase after all;

one for the woman who gave me a sheaf of corn
because she didn’t know how to say goodbye;

one for the woman who fed me rare plants
and asked me politely, after I’d toasted her
with the umteenth song,
if I didn’t come with a pause button for God’s sake;

one for the woman I hardly ever phoned
because I could not think of a question
that would be worthy of a mind like hers;

one for the Greek restaurant that no longer exists,
where I duelled with someone over halva and ice cream
because we had no money to buy
a second portion;

one for the man who dared me
to do the wrong thing, to live
dangerously, and then died of it;

one for the man who fathered me well,
and then asked me, just before the end,
to forgive him for his ignorance.

You can consign the body to the fire—
the bills, paid or unpaid; the outmoded ways of being
and the very bad poetry.
The names, the names are not consumed.
They refuse to be anything else
than the sum of my parts,
hovering now on an invisible screen
without ever quite adding up.

 - Jacques Coetzee

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Frames

Used to the firm metal scaffolding
manufactured in segments,
standard in South Africa,

I guess my mind constructed them
the world over: so in Kuala Lampur
those bamboo racks, neat and high,

surprised me, caught my organic eye,
and the wooden poles of Lagos,
or low slung around buildings in Juba.

With imagination swaying,
I marvel at the organic vitality,
the close-to-groundness,
the human trust in the ways of growth

in tension with the more aggressive
ways of metal and concrete,
the firm safety we seek
to scaffold our lives.

 - Brian Walter

Friday, January 3, 2020

Deep Listening

It happened again yesterday:
in the middle of a fine conversation
about sublime and lofty things
something in me switched off, and I found myself focusing

on the slight pull at the pit of my stomach
as you stepped away from me for a moment
to pour wine for an honoured guest.

I could still hear the separate music
in our four voices, but
the words, the words had gone out of range.
The only detailed information then
came from the song of my blood—
subterranean, preverbal—
calling for your touch across the table.

There are no words for such music:
not in company, not when we’re alone.
All I could say for certain then
to myself, under my breath,
was that all lofty things,
raised up in defiance of gravity—
all the immortal words, and all great music—

seemed to be reconfigured there;
rooted again in the fire
that sings and sings, unheard, in our hidden blood.

 - Jacques Coetzee

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Steam

All through the dark
insomnia and night fears
I’d hear the knock and hiss

and clack of the steam trains
as they’d shunt and chuff
between the station and North End,

or the narrow gauge down south
whistle her running steam – the Apple Express
from the Langkloof,

as through my dark of mind-hurt
there’d come clicking on the night breeze
and a sudden clatter of tracks,

syncopated with the heart beats
of child panic into the dead
of the darkness

till the bells tolled thrice
at the Dutch Reformed Church,
and my head would twist

on the pillow of necessity,
and I’d think to bash my living skull
against the wall to shut up

the sounds and the thoughts
and to shove – like steam forced
into strength – hot sleep into being.

 - Brian Walter