Saturday, October 10, 2020

Later

We drop you at home,
young girl –

at your mother’s makeshift fence,
the small room being built upon,

the brave attempt
at life’s dignity:

next door the guys are drinking
their first-thing-in-the-morning-beer;

I could be amongst them,
me and all the friends from Cannery Row,

but my now eyes
see a hand upon stained walls,

their house-steps dirty grey,
the toddler lost in her eyes.

What’ll be going on here
by half-past twelve,

or when darkness falls?

 - Brian Walter

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

bedagsame pigmente

al wie bly mediteer in hierdie tye
is die bedagsame pigmente
wat nie meer die hart het om
oor die velle te wil spat nie

abbakus

en speel abbakus-abbakus met die blare

ek moet weer in aanraking kom met

die in-tel-lig-ensie van die natuur 

kariljon

die meganiese trots van die kariljon
kners op sy tande
elke beier van sy klokke loop katvoet
deur die vergetelheid
wat knobbelrig bly progresseer met groot drif

- Lara Kirsten


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Company

Warm Ngqushu
and then the container of maize bread,
pot-baked, were laid out on the staff-room table.

“The thing,” she said, “about our rural places
is home grown food: the flour for this bread
was ground on a flat stone.”
She told of its soft declivity,
from years of human work, milling maize . . . .

“And how I’ve always longed,”  I said,
“for just such a stone, flat and dipped concave
from grinding corn to eat,

for I would love one in my garden,
to cup the rainwater I offer to the birds .  . .”

“But,” she said, “You don’t get it, it seems.
These are not for gardens, nor for birds:

these stones, these old stones,
are for our work. They are our machines.”

 - Brian Walter

Saturday, September 26, 2020

When night falls

We find ourselves in darkness
between blurry blots of orange light
skimming through bathroom windows
from the street

and the persistent hum of the fridge
that dwindles at day
while television sounds and laughter compete
with dinnering,
dishes
and life

when the wind tugs on roof sheets
and howls around the corners
of the mind,
livestreaming faults,
failure,
foes
of which the I is largest.

We find ourselves between sheets drenched in
lonely
wrapped naked in our thoughts,
skin on skin with the wounds left by day
for night-time to mend:

our souls oozing
the burden of being human.

- Alvené Appollis- Du Plessis

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

verbly

die spektrale kariljon bly in my ore lui 
lui alle klaagliedere uit die pen uit!
laat ek die filigraan idée fixe vasvang 
en dit opklits tot een pronkende pou
dit sal die poppemeesters verbly  

grootbekke

dit is hartverskeurend hoe grootbekke 
hoogty vier in hierdie wêreld
ek skaar my maar by die sonskyn
om my sin van standvastigheid te gee
ek nooi die malvablomme en 
die tarentale om saam met my 
in die voortuin piekniek te hou

soos 'n taksonoom

soos ‘n taksonoom
vat ek die dooie gedig
en stop dit op
plak met bewende vingers
sy smotsige vere in deurmekaar metafore vas
en hoop die wêreld sien
nie sy onpolsende hart raak nie


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Present

The crumpled paper smells
of long-ago youth, wrapping paper

– blue Christmas,
and polka dot presents

my parents tried
to piece together.

The poor sixties lives
and the old laughter

that looks back at us now,
who hold crumpled paper

and memories
in time’s blue wrapping.

 - Brian Walter

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Só lyk genade

As die son eers by my venster inloer
en die duiwe langsaan koer,
weet ek:
die Jirre het my wraggies wéér gespaar.

Dis my kroeskop kam
en die ketel kook
en die nagmerries van gist’raand
met Colgate wegjaag:
smile a little, they say.

Dis ʼn matter van kindmaak,
grootmaak,
geldmaak,
repeat
en al die katjies en hondjies
en kindertjies oppas

tussen parlement-speel,
doodspeel
en safe kap
in ʼn land van surviving the law,
the lies
and the poets.

As die maan eers oor die vloer dans
en die rondloper ginger kom groet,
dan weet ek:
die Jirre was my wéér genadig
en my kroeskop kan maar kussingskop

en rus.

- Alvené Appollis-du Plessis

Friday, September 4, 2020

Between horizons

Dust, heat, silence . . .
A truck stops dead
between horizons –
farm workers waiting
to hitch a ride.


For Townes, feline companion (II)

Little friend, long gone,
driving on the N9 to Aberdeen
I feel through the windscreen
as you once did while you lived –
the steadying warmth of the sun.

- Eduard Burle

Friday, August 28, 2020

Eating a naartjie

Not the old apple – the pristine fruit
of paradise was so clearly the citrus
that Botticelli's Primavera shows.
In nature’s allegory, there, you’ll see

evergreen citrus leaves that signify
triumph over time. Defying seasons,
the trees have chaste white flowers
alongside a crop gilt with orange.

Now I break the soft citrus skin
and naartjie segments fall to hand
with ease, as in the Golden Age,
till you beguile my thoughts:

“Can you give me just one housie?”
Your old South End language,
the child-talk of the streets,
wafts me back to the old homes

and the folk: the flotsam of people
drifted in from both sea and land,
naturally blending cultures,
their gods laughing like neighbours

– till leprous apartheid whiteness
tore it all down, house by house.
I look at the naartjie segment,
your sweet housie, hand it to you –

just a moment’s paradise,
a brief taste of timelessness,
a housie of peace
in this hard world of men.

 - Brian Walter

Friday, August 21, 2020

Two ships

Two ships, on their way, disappearing,
a section of white paintwork
on each of them caught,
for a moment, by a glint of morning sun.

Two ships, two incomplete
floating puzzles
half-visible in the grey haze of clouds
above the sea’s horizon.


Passing clouds

We share the fate of clouds
and yet we keep on finding ways
to mark and claim the hours.

*

We share the fate of clouds
and so we keep on finding ways
to mark and claim the hours.

 - Eduard Burle

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

tussen pers vygies

ek sit op 'n skilferende creosote bankie in Nature's Valley
die goue gedenkplaatjie op die rugkant lees:
Die Muller familie - 4 geslagte

soos my tone oopsprei tussen die pers vygies
sing ek 'n sagte lied
ter herinnering aan die Mullers

my oog korrel na 'n by wat holomhoog 
in 'n bos stuifmeeldrade skrop en suig 
en krap en beur en stoot 

ek gaan af op my knieë
- ek self holomhoog - 
om die aksie van naderby te bekyk

hoe langer ek kyk 
hoe meer blomme en bye merk ek op
bye wat verwoed mekaar uit blomkele stoot

groot korrels geel stuifmeel 
klou taai
aan spartelende beentjies

instinktiewe verpligting
vreugde
oorlewingswaansin?

wat dryf die bye tot hierdie 
onophoudelike soeke, versameling, korwe bou 
en die magiese heuningalchemie?

 - Lara Kirsten

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

THE WITNESSES

Throughout the wedding service,
from her seat in the third pew,
the groom’s grandmother held
the right hand of her husband, in part to prevent it
from exploring her thigh.

From behind the microphone, an uninspired
voice tried to breathe life
into stern advice for the newly-weds,
written by a fiery
first-century celibate.

Walking out afterwards
into the heat, the blinding glare of summer,
the grandmother’s eyes found the eyes
of a much-married man, drawn into himself
at the love-feast, unsure
if he himself could commit such a rash act

yet again. She winked at him, said:
“I do find things like these get easier
as you get older.”—meaning
marriage, meaning
the perilous leap into the arms
of another, requiring
some skill and much luck, but mostly
a love of broken things,
of imperfection. Then her own husband’s face

slowly softened and relaxed, and he began to feel
the earth beneath him again, crushed grass
under his feet in spite of his shoes;
and a slight breeze came out of nowhere

to ruffle his clothes; to lift his dampened spirits
again and again, as they all walked on emboldened
into the beautiful, wicked world.

 - Jacques Coetzee

Thursday, June 25, 2020

DIOGENES

Today he appeared
to me again:

the old man who lives in a barrel;
is content to share it with a dog;
eats, drinks and relieves himself
in public places, like the dog;
calls it his master in all things.

Once, according to ancient legend,
when he was already old and disreputable,
world-conquering Alexander sought him out
and offered him anything, anything
his copious mind could imagine, anything
his body could desire.

Diogenes, it is said,
did not hesitate an instant.
“Stand a bit further off,” he said. “Right now
you are standing in my sun.”

This morning, sitting in our winter garden—
yearning for yesterday’s wine,
kisses and long, hot showers—I suddenly remembered
that stubborn old man. Once, it is said,
he smashed a bowl—his only possession—
after seeing a peasant boy
drink from the public fountain.

You—always intent
on what works best, and concerned
with sharing the world—said:
 “Why didn’t he give the bowl
to the boy if he no longer wanted it?”

But Riaz, from the other side
of an ascetic turn
only dimly dreamed of
in my philosophy,
just smiled and said: “Of course.
He wouldn’t want to corrupt
the boy; to encourage anyone
to want anything that wasn’t
essential.”

So now, even in this
quiet, water-wise garden,
I can feel the lashing
of the old man’s tongue.
Brave and reproachful, he stands at my shoulder
each time I click to buy
something I don’t need;
each time I reach out, one more time,
to assure myself that you’re still here—
beyond reason, beyond
anything I could have hoped
to earn or deserve;
just here, beyond argument or philosophy—
just because.

 - Jacques Coetzee

Monday, June 22, 2020

die visioenêre waatlemoen breek in stukke

die visioenêre waatlemoen breek in stukke
op die geteisterde teer
die agterdogtige akkedisse skarrel opeens
in wye sirkels om die sanikende stroopspatsels
die eenoog eekhoring trippel in pastorale parentese nader aan die soete mise-en-scène
die merkwaardige mites probeer hard om nie
onder die klas van buitensporige bewerings
gekatalogiseer te word nie
dit is so 'n onbeduidende onreg wanneer
die argetipiese aksies deur die peremptoriese patriarge en burokratiese boelies so waansinnig weggevee word
die parate pruimedante en pluimende proteas
omsingel die fanatiese foonaanbidders en
hulle kettingvormende kak
en smyt hulle die suigende seestrome in
dit is te verwagte dat die duistere dwingelandy 
waaronder ons onsself en ander sit
die yslike eina veroorsaak waaraan die weemoedige wêreld ly 

 - Lara Kirsten

Thursday, June 18, 2020

DESERT SONGS

I
Desert fathers, you who live in caves
and grottos, who ran away
in search of silence, hear me.

Slowly I become acquainted with you,
even though an urgent voice calls me
back, always, into the crooked world.
I too know the bliss
when the hard wind dies down;
when the heart has found what it asked for,
and still finds it good, if only for a moment
between one season and the next.

Give me today
just a little of your silence,
although I bend the knee to the things of this world.
Give me the strength
to remain waiting in the same place,
to remain standing underneath the sun
till the song sounds clear again
between the bones of my skull.

II
Desert mothers, you who stand
with empty arms, who dance
with the invisible bridegroom,
by what roads does the heart
travel to this place? What appetites
slowly spent themselves
and were calmed, until you came here?
Can you see me, will you recognise me
where I stand, in the hard light
of my desire?

Is there room for my hunger
there, where you read together?
And when the sombre song finds you each morning,
does it have knowledge of me
and the shadow I cast
across the path,
in this noisy old world?

 - Jacques Coetzee

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Do the work

I wake at night
to do the work
which day has not allowed.

– Silke Heiss, 26th August 2019

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Naartjie

No, I can’t write a poem to praise you.

I’ve made wines from many kinds of fruit,
from marrows and new oak leaves, for goodness’ sake;
and they carried the spirit and soul
that was theirs alone;

and for all the promise
of the coat you’re delivered in,
-so lush and royal, so gift-wrapped
(that you slip out of too easily,
like a soft, pale girl)
-you don’t deliver, do you?
Not really.

You’re tinctured spring-water
with citrus notes:
delicate, floral,
but no real body:
no tannins, no lasting food
for soul, or palate, or our own red hearts.
You can’t compete against
the blood orange,
                     ruby grapefruit,
 holy apple,
                     noble grape.

You looked sweeter with your clothes on.

Maybe your sweetest self
would appear in a liqueur?  


 -  John van Wyngaard

Friday, June 5, 2020

Yellow dog gift

He leads the pack that chased
my duiker –
he knows I dislike him:
runs when I come.

Just outside the fence,
I see he wants to enter
with a gigantic thing in his mouth,
but, seeing me, he puts it down.

He puts it down deliberately,
puts it down as something intended
for me. And runs.

I heed the sign and go
to look
at

the badly decomposed head
of a goat – eye sockets
maggoted, a dry piece of lip
curling a slim tusk
at the front of the jaw.

Pawing through the meanings,
I sense dimly
that my past of sacrifice
is done, and that battles lost
are won.

– Silke Heiss, 25th October 2019

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