Vertalings: in Engels

All translations by Johann de Lange, unless indicated otherwise

Sheila Cussons

Sheila Cussons

You were an eagle in dark repose
against high cliffs when your fist so tightly
clenched the acrid glass, but when you
raised and flung it against the pub-door, we heard
at once the crack of black and copper wings –
once – as if it was then the sign
upon which we waited like falcons pitched for flight.


Aunt Emily of Uncle Naas
Sheila Cussons

Aunt Emily of Uncle Naas
was a Juno of a woman:
Rubens could have painted her –
She was what one would call plump
but dignified, upright, tall,
and radiantly pink and with a golden head
and always in ‘the family way’:
“Doc said,” and “then doc said to me,”
Aunt Em was almost shamelessly healthy.
And every child was a boy with wide blue eyes,
also the one who drowned in the fishpond.
“Oh dear, it seems to me I get like this all by myself”;
so she was easily consoled for the one who drowned.
“Oh Taffy,” to my mother, “just look at the dahlia,
Just like a lovely woman getting out of her bath.”
Uncle Naas was thin and kind and spoilt his Em
and ate her diets without protest –
he was the mortal, the chosen,
and she the ever-summery goddess.


“Christ of the burnt men” (Thomas Merton)
Sheila Cussons

You will also win me more gradually, smiling
jest-eyed bright-eyed Christ who watched
my fearful years from your distance: you
didn’t reach out your hands then when I
received your searing wounds on my body
but fiercely drew your cross across me, on hand
and foot and trunk and head, and through the swoon
under dripping plasma and salt water bags
shone before me with just the hint of a smile
of extreme pain around the corners of the mouth, your eyes
bright with a terrible accord.
And I grasp, you drew me for the adventure
of you, I who love fire and was always reckless –
– oh what is the fire in mind and heart that burns more fiercely
than the flame on the body that goes and glows in stone and sand
underneath my one-footed-hopping insight pursuing
your gentlemindedness?: No, something more glorious: when at last you
turn around with eyes white and fixed and far and shoulders draped
with an enflamed and storming sun: oh, my cosmic Christ:
thirty three years hidden in the small and dark flesh
you cut open in one night to free yourself for me
so that I can see you, know you, have you, and still you are waiting
for me to say, to say wholeheartedly: grasp my hands then,
nearly without fingers for you: able carpenter.


The barn-yard
Sheila Cussons

The pigsty did not reek:
it smelled pleasantly crass-sour-rotten,
and the gluttonous snouts in hogwash and gourd
and the unmentionable mud was the most wonderful
most daring bad manners imaginable –
I loved the pigsty far removed
at the lower end of the barn-yard,
behind a row of cypresses, and liked to sit on its wall
to sniff in deeply the feral scent
and be amazed at animals so shamelessly
gluttonous they even guzzle with their snouts;
and their ugly heavy mugs with the stupid
white-eyelashed eyelets like something from Grimm
or Andersen. Indeed, the pigs were Somebodies,
like princes disguised by withered old witches
or Circe’s swine-sailors –
Nearly sun-blind I dreamt about them,
until mud-mellow, so strong and richly-sweet
saturated my young veins the magical enchantment
of all the summers of my youth –
Back in the house:
Good Lord one really cannot bear this
Grandmother piously complained about the heat
and, hell but it’s hot, bluntly
from my slightly more carnal mother:
how could they understand that the scorching day
and the pigsty
was a heaven to me, a fable unrivaled –
Also the lost paradise was just outside the house:
a big old plum–tree with sinful fruit
which fell from above just like us,
and if you picked one up you could still see in time
evil quickly recoiling
back into the injured flesh –
O lost barn-yard, in you I could find the whole Old Testament
and the Greek legends and Andersen.


The boarder
Sheila Cussons

I have a ghost-string on my lute
I have a ghost-lover
I have a tame house-ghost
just like Emily Brontë.

Just as I’m about to sing something worldly
he twangs in between
and creaks in my chair his embrace
like with Emily Brontë.

When the ruttish hound bit me
I burned the wound with
the fire-iron: this the ghost also did
to Emily Brontë.


Approaching storm
Sheila Cussons

To live now
is to be violently alive! How rock
and beetle glitter, fiery blue metal,
how the weather drives out whiter
bigger droves… bounding footloose ahead of
his fleece a flame: the Lamb,
and in the rear black rams
of the Diaspora
rounded up at last on remote thundering hooves.


Clothed nakedness
Sheila Cussons

A blaze wear I
between the world and my blood
more mine, more my own than anything
a without-name
that, to destroy
would be the destruction of me:
o unbearable, tender, defenseless shirt of flame.


Sheila Cussons

The spring approaches and already I dream
a fiercer sun and burning sand
and blinding blueness of a sea
and at evening time
white droves of dust and sheep
which swell and flow
between powdery cypress, pollard willow
and wild-rose bush.
How good it is to know: the same
amount of summer will come again for sure.


Sheila Cussons

You are a warm mud
teeming with me
thousand eyelets of terror
o my quivering stars in my
vulnerable sky.


Sheila Cussons

In the kernel slumbers fire,
in the mire, in the garner,
in ore, in ear, brown, azure:
in body and sheaf and stone, the Fire.


The neglected
Sheila Cussons

He spots me through the window
lingers on the grass with his beer and glass
and waves and doesn’t know that his shoulders are slightly bent today…
but then everything’s all right again, my heart can almost forget,
I continue work, his lonely bottle of beer and glass
his shoulders, for the time being solved this afternoon
because he suddenly comforted me without knowing it,
with the bright banner of a Spanish grin.


Antique landscape
Sheila Cussons

Around hamlets
broody in sweat of a siesta
the storm rocks,
an old prophet grumbling in Hebrew–
and ahead of his staff
clatters the goat with the honey-eye
and the shameful udder
nodding across stones spitting serpents:
her quick droppings
a stuttering rosary behind her,
until at last on a rock-finger she
older than Isthar, stands defiantly.


Johann de Lange

Johann de Lange

Rising nipples bear the flail
of a sinuous & nippy quirt:

a vicious honey-bee
suspending blossomed flight.

Intent the watchers watch
for signalled pain & joy.

And I gaze hornier
how sternly & yet tenderly

the boy is guided through a maze
with sightless, bandaged eyes.

Black leather swathes his body,
(an epidermis sensual & new)

tight-fitting over calf & thigh,
a sweaty costume for the nude;

attention clinches on the crotch –
a clenched & shimmering fist.

Scourged deep within himself
he seeks with hooded eyes

the confines of his darkness,
the strange, untrodden places;

so delving in his innermost,
interchanging self with self,

he takes the aspect of a sloughing snake
& slithers to a winding trail.

In bright & strangulating grip
the whip beats like an artery:

bright oscillating cord
deep from the abalone of his groin –

the start is primal, boisterous,
in which he gains himself anew.

(Translated by Ernst van Heerden)


Johann de Lange

Auden, a visit

The men in the sauna sweating
take stock: from the fauna of the night

a naked animal emerges
wriggling through seaweed:

its wise & furrowed face is huge,
the dour shoulders, baggy skin.

“It makes one think of Kafka,”
a tormented voice is muttering:

“all is focused on obsession. All this vice,
there’s a touch of lunacy, isn’t there?

It’s so mad & so ridiculous in a Dostoyevskian way.
To extreme sickness, said Pascal, one must apply

extreme remedies. Very clever, of course,
but what did he mean by extreme remedies?”

Steam rises from the glowing stones
with warning hisses (serpent, gospel-man?) –

the silent cleansing scrub proceeds
& the body’s dismal load is spent.

High from my hazy perch I see
the radiant white of all his skin.

(Translated by Ernst van Heerden)


Johann de Lange

They fle from me that sometyme did me seke
With naked fote stalking my chambre.
Sir Thomas Wyatt

Where have all my beauties gone?
Raoul, young man
tantalising with closed eyes,
leaning back relaxed
as if caught in a wet dream,
a tiny bee tattooed on his dick;

Judd, sulking
underneath a black Stetson,
his jeans pulled
down, or with only boots
& socks, cock clenched
like a weapon
in his gleaming fist;

cowboy Brad, legs astride
with leather-chaps, bronze
bullhead-buckle belt open
wide horns
above the curly fleece
of a bull's forehead,
lowering, snorting
through a big nose-ring;

& Juan, leaning forward,
listening with cat's-eyes,
whispering ti voglio bene,
latin pupils half-mast,
temptingly un-jealous.
Where will they be tonight?


You smile, your mouth a bow
taut & cruel,
turn your back on me
for the time being
satiated, between us
your blond, untrusting seed:

the bite-mark on your ass
will be fainter tomorrow,
the body's betrayal
- how soon the body forgets -
a horseshoe, or the phantom
of a long-desired punishment.


Corona del mar
Johann de Lange

The young surfer
with beach-white hair
who waves at me
& brown as the sun
rides out
the curved roar
of a tall wave
- spry wave-tumbler -
is the crown
of his species
of marine animals
& the scant
swimming trunks
that hold
the uncut jewel
the rosy coral
reef of pleasure
round which
my lips & tongue
complete a circ-
ular breath
slips & shimmers
in the noonday sun
underneath his feet
the greedy sands
as he walks by
with long strides
smooth & wet
as a fin
the surfboard
a scale across
his shoulders
& his eyes blue
half-moons of ocean


Johann de Lange

Two lovers: one slender
dark-haired younger
his hands & feet
bound to a wooden frame
stands spread-eagled
naked blindfolded
but not yet muzzled -

The stronger one, grey,
wearing black leather
takes his time with the thin
black whip, flicking
the small flat nipples
tenderly to glowing
rings of fire


Johann de Lange

My body is a labyrinth,
a mesmerising city,
harsh to strangers,
the accidental tourist
with return ticket,
the restless traveller
who only stays the night.

But since you’re planning
a one-way trip
& convinced me
of your sincerity,
you get a free pass & map.

But beware: these arms
can be misleading guides,
& my mouth a dark alley
where charming blue-eyed
bandits hide,

my eyes shop fronts
that can make you reckless,
& my dashing blood
a raid on all the places
of injury & revenge.

You’d better navigate carefully
through the swollen tunnels.
The search for my heart
can last a lifetime.
If you stay I may surrender it,

may show you the lair
of the timid minotaur.


Night meeting
Johann de Lange

In the leopard-night they met:
two leafy ghosts.
The taut embrace
shivered like eyes of fear,
& I, a witness to their lonely game,
for a moment ache & feel the same.


Two sailors pissing
Johann de Lange

after a watercolour by Charles Demuth

heavy dick-holding sailors
thicker even than those
on the walls
of Pompei pissing
with sweet angelic faces
aiming with strong wrists
two clear flowing figures
running water or arching fire
dark blue uniforms
against the brown-of-the-wall
transparent reflections
of the noon hour
which they are a part of
two foam-pissing sailors:
that so much water,
that such water-men,
can hold such fire
– the cold ashes
of Pompei testify to this –
that they as it were piss
on smouldering ruins
a wet flame on the paper


Koos Prinsloo [1957-1994]
Johann de Lange

Death is the passing... of a living being into what
Christian Boltanski calls “an absolutely disgusting pile of shit.”
Didier Semin

Death, Didier Semin wrote in An artist of uncertainty,
is the passing of a subject into the state
of an object; the passing of a human being
into a thing; of a friend
into a corpse, a stranger:
3 o’clock in the morning,
the hour of garbage cans
& jingling milk bottles,
they took away your gaunt blind body
in a black body bag.
The slaughtered morning,
still bloody & shivering.
The hour of carcasses
grimacing on meat-hooks,
of buttocks quivering on the butcher’s block,
when the saws sing piercingly
at the abattoirs, & stray dogs
yelp around the entrails.

The morning after your death
the papers reported black
on white only the bare facts.
Three columns & a photo.
But it’s another image
that haunts me: the rectum as a grave.


Johann de Lange

On your stomach, one leg pulled high,
I can see where your blond leg-hair goes,
grows darker & thicker, & the swollen ridge
of your dick disappears between hard cheeks.

Judas-eye opening wider for a rimming,
fragrant bud in a bed of brown curls,
ring clenched rhythmically as the first sharp pulses
pump the spunk deep from my heavy balls

& from the red & swollen head squirts
white spokes flying out across your back.
Your body makes me hot for randy talk

– ass & hard-on, dickhead, fuck & suck –
because in my mouth such supple words
are as thick-fleshed & acrid as you.


To an unknown boy
Johann de Lange

No longer can guns be cancelled by love
Roy Fuller


From slender goat-hips the boy milks
the first flowers of his youth,
stares into the mirror of his dying seed,
ignorant of how this season’s fruit
are untimely crated in their juice,
& buds on sprigs remain unborn & blind.
Driven by a lean hunger.


Surely, death surprised you rather young:
just eighteen & almost as attractive
as you would have been. Unblemished.
New blood on your blonde head,
a cut on your downy upper lip.

Your tongue will never ring again
& your eyes will remain squadronless blue,
your nipples withdrawn,
your fragrant youthfulness defeated,
your forehead an abandoned fort.

The tender sex which oftentimes you roused
to celebrate your earthiness,
lie still & cold & bare.
Even outstretched you celebrate
all life still unwounded & unbegotten.


Where a child dies the earth is injured
the sky crouches
the rivers are silent
the sea draws back
the trees hang black canvases at noon
the horizon trembles
the mountains grow old overnight with grey shoulders
the stones fix it in their memories

& the sun falls wounded into its own shadow


Johann de Lange

Delicate lace-work of vygies along the beach.
The vygie-runners of Somerset Strand
couldn’t hold back your slender ankles
that night you stepped out
to your death like a child into a dark room,
when you waded navel-deep into the water
like a sleepwalker in a dream.
That night: did you know then
that there is an end to the big yellow bee
of day, did you remember that once,
one full somer, you had been flaxen and happy?
That night you cried out in your silence
and the sea gulls died from your scream.
That night you gave away your tender body
one last time.
And the foamy surf white as wind
washed your thighs clean
of the blood of the murdered child,
the blood of the unjustly accused,
the afterbirth of your people.
In the Bergrivier and the dam at Firwoods
twice you nearly drowned, girl-woman;
third time lucky.
Before you finally sank
sleap-heavy and for ever young,
the waves and the wind conspired
to give your gaunt shoulders
two gull-white wings for the flight
from this, our Valkenburg.


Ingrid Jonker (1933-1965)
Johann de Lange

Who killed Ingrid Jonker?
I, says the summery sea,
I give and take.
I killed Ingrid Jonker.

Who watched her die?
I, the moon replies,
nothing escapes me.
I watched her die.

Who will sew the veil?
I, the lover says,
to hide behind.
I will sew the veil.

Who will buy the grave?
We, the family boasts
– with her name in stone –
we will buy the grave.

Who will carry the coffin?
We will, the papers proclaim,
on front pages everywhere
we will carry her coffin.

Who will ring the bell?
I will, the sister says,
jealous of her grief.
I will ring the bell.

Who will sing for her?
I will, cries the unborn child,
so she can find me.
I will sing for her.

Who will mourn her death?
We who published her
and profitted.
We will mourn her death.

Who will draw her blood?
I, the poet confesses,
out of avarice and envy.
I will draw her blood.

Who’ll be first to forget?
I will, the pale page answers,
my time is very short.
I’ll be first to forget.


Joan Hambidge

Joan Hambidge

There’s more to love
than patterns: boy meets girl,
buying a Sterns ring, etcetera.
There’s more to love
than a beginning, middle or end.
Because you (and me) refuse to accept it.

Oh, meeting at first (let’s call it: exposition)
always rather briskly spills over into the highlight
(i.e.: climax of consummation,
coming without qualms). Both: trapped.

Who wants to hazard a further guess?
Since what goes up, must come down.
Ecstasy only lasts as long as sending flowers
or the sweet deceit of romance.

Dénouement: vide the glossary, an “unknotting
of complications”. A discovery that passion
- by one? or both? - is running out.
Our dénouement thus: discovery of your deceit.

There’s more to love
than patterns: girl meets girl,
invests in love, togetherness, understanding.
There’s more to love
than a beginning, middle or end.
Because you (and I) are caught up in symbols.


Joan Hambidge

To write poetry: you have
to be prepared to die.

- Theodore Roethke

The brilliant girl
of Smith College
Phi Beta Kappa
(later on even
in the editorial
of Mademoiselle)
silently screams
her life frozen
in a bell jar.

The charming wife
of Ted Hughes
writes verses

before feeding
her little morningsong
- becomes inex-
plicably nauseous
cabbage burning
on her gas stove.

How bright the shards
of a broken jar; how
distant a finger
slashed open
by a knife; flowers
spurting blood
in the garden.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.”
Thus the intellect
dissects after yet another
frustrated suicide attempt
poplars are trees of death…
copes with everyday tasks
an over-excited metronome.

Death an art
studied in its fibre and vein
- life the groundless
rhyme and reason
heartless copy cat.


Arte poetica
Joan Hambidge

Homage à Neruda

In the afternoons when the bodies
of lovers become one in holy host,
whores pawn their bodies,
priests lose their faith slowly but surely,
women lament over abortions or children signed away,
mothers sigh over rebellious kin,
young sons strive against the father’s power,
and activists move underground,
the poet becomes one with the sacrament
of the word. Or not so?
No, the poet experiences something of the ecstasy
of love, the unscrupulousness of a whore
(anything but anything for the poem’s sake),
the desperation of the once oh so religious
person calling His God but hearing Him
no more (like a poem in a desert),
the lonely lament of a woman,
for whom the bell tolls annually, reminded
of a non-commemorative, non-happy birthday
moment (a voice smothered in a plastic bag),
a child who ends up on the front-page
or in a cell, a father who is listening,
but fails to hear, and the activist
calling out: “A luta continua!”
A lifeless poem commits suicide.


My mannequin
Joan Hambidge

My mannequin
flaunts her emotions
prettily: she laughs, she pouts,
she’s always happy - as long as nobody
gets too close - and looking for more luck.

Moving mechanically, stiffly,
some notice - those who really look - that she
is sexless, frigid and dead:
marble eyes, fake eyelashes
and cold hands.

Do I imagine it, or is her mouth
at times defenseless like a bleeding wound.


Programme poem
Joan Hambidge

The swallows are departing:
the souls of the dead;
silently, surely they leave
to an unknown, quiet imaginative place,
a region where the dead, according
to spiritualists, judge themselves;
the suicides and murderers
slowly, if ever, find peace
or come to terms with their deeds.
Clairvoyants can call them up;
highly sensitive mediums can sense their roaming
presence in old ransacked, ghostly houses,
like trapped swallows in an airport terminal
flapping their wings searching for an exit,
blinded by damp, frozen windows,
anxious, panicky because this unknown area
restricts and fails to release
them on this obligatory journey without a passport
or an endorsed, special visa,
hand luggage or a heavy, overloaded bag.
Susceptible youths also have the ability to see:
set an extra place at the table
for the imaginary, roaming friend;
a messenger from the unreachable other side,
comforts a suffering person.
Mediums translate the oh so longed for
message to a guilt-ridden family member.
And us? The ones left behind? The mourners?
The inheritors of quiet, undecodable postcards?
They leave us with the seed
we wanted to feed, with the crumbs
of remorse, of I still-wanted-to-say, make amends;
closed off from this mysterious winter journey.


Ode to her
Joan Hambidge

Homage à the poetry of Erica Jong

I cannot forget you     your breasts
above all
haunt me     like two headstrong detectives
in pursuit of a culprit throughout the night
never-ceasing     until I turn on the light
          merely a phantom experience
I cannot forgive you     how you deliver
my body to another
above all your eyes     everything begins with the eyes     your laughter
          the crow’s feet
around the corners
I cannot forget     your tongue     why
didn’t I steal your tongue tiny
oyster     now available to everybody
like canned fruit at the local supermarkets
                          at night
your sweater touches my shoulders     the same one
which used to hug my body     I write messages
like I love you need     you suddenly the sweater
escapes my arms

                          to return
free of any further claims return return
to forgive or forget     is in vain.


Antjie Krog (Foto deur Keke Keuekelaar)

a one-dimensional song for the northern free state, more specifically middenspruit
antjie krog

most beloved state of heart untouched by spring
where maize cracks like stars
with fox-beards sheer in the moonlight
where sunflower fields spread their handkerchiefs in the valleys
where clouds tumble like horses
and at dusk the sun fires its peacock feathers
across the hills broody and plump and downy green
every farm dam windmilled with willows
evening’s last sparks crackle
through heron-still waters

most beloved state of heart untouched by spring
where trains with ferns of smoke
each winter with faraway clucks chug-chug
over redgrass flecked with sparrow wings
over khaki bush and blackjack like dolerite like guinea fowl
reedbrown sandstonebrown dassiebrown winterbrown
and in the swamps white leghorn tufts
where partridges roll vetkoek at dusk
every winter morning creaks distinct and sharp as needles
vividly a willow-whip cracks the frost
the far-off puff of dung fires
the pasture of autumn only in poplars
– softly so softly a chattering between power-lines

most beloved plains of my heart
where the jackknife of winter
casts itself completely
into the green harvest of summer
so many years I’ve tried to live you down
to fertilize plains with something else
but every season I come to draw you again and again
for if I die this way I die
and even in boland and bushveld
month after month your redgrass blossom my eyes.

16 December
antjie krog

a touch of this wildness
of sailing along foreign coasts
uninhabited countries
of planting flags
a touch of sitting on a wagon chest
and looking down into a strange valley
– unmarked by boundary fences
          by the ring of voices
          by the smacking of water-tubs
          of tar-buckets and chicken coops against the wagon
it’s a touch of walking waist-high in redgrass
of looking for gooseberries and nightshade
of cutting spanish reeds
and sleeping under the open canvas of night
stretched wide over jackal and owl
something bigger than ourselves brought us here
something which turned into the rim of our survival
the tough currant wood of faith.

for who pushes the clouds up along the mountains
so that the gun powder stays light and white
like french talcum from the cape
who strikes the white shields black shields with the assegai of night
lets them wait for daybreak with its fiery calabash
who with his own hand
herds the dense mist up against the mountain slopes
so that we can see wide and far

but wonders no longer echo a wonder
voices no longer ring as clear
the land is no longer wide or cruel
but small and defenseless
and no one leaves tracks on tarred roads anymore…
even so we are made of seasons of prosperity and pain
from the plainness of four walls
the growth of soil
the treachery of summer and light

that is why we can go nowhere else
because nowhere else is the earth spanned with so much emotion
is the sky so clear
does day break with such violence
nowhere can we sleep so peacefully
as in the open palm of this land.


Freda Linde (Foto deur Philip de Vos)

Freda Linde

How gently the July rain chastises me
how the rain chastises me
through empty neon streets without a message
from the day that has never been:

Half a night would have brought the day.
So close the day could have begun
just ten steps across the dark lawn.

– Not even ten steps.
Not for all the fame and glamour.
Not a word, a call, a tiny whisper.

You slipped away even more slyly
than their promises like smoke rings.
But how could you leave behind the little things
your child’s tiny shoes under my bed
and somewhere – where? – your ochre sweater
well-worn and soft like dawn?

And the weathered child of the tiny shoes –
did you know that she would leave
unembarassed like a child
on spangled little feet…
But these broken little shoes?

There was a day when someone was abrupt
(and you so wind-blown in the street)
and a night came when all the voices were silent
in their unknowing silent betrayal

but the little things did not upset you
and still call to you ceaselessly
blameless and small, lost, in vain:
the humble glass with the flower of your lips
and the empty perfume bottles
and the faithful key to your door.
Keys wear out and forget, but this one
until lately lay in your feverish palm.

River basin, domain of dreams, ebb tide
softly shifts across the rippling boundaries.
Drowns out the attentive silences.

When the traffic stops and the people
washes your beat from quiet balconies
river basin, domain of dreams,
you hush the defenceless desire.
“Drowning is to be forgotten and forgiven.
“Isn’t it beautiful –
“Forgotten and forgiven?
It is vanquishing an old, aching grief.”

In the small hours of night I still hear the July rain
and know the chilly damp that settles on the stone.


N.P. van Wyk Louw

Salute in brown
N.P. van Wyk Louw

Now I want to see you in a kind of mediterranean
clarity, one last time: with canvas shoes or woven sandals
walking along some sun-lacquered beach;
or úp a sweltering street where buses struggle úp,
stop at hotels, wáit for traffic lights.

Come, let me pay you the last, the
irradiant homage, thát
which shines from taverns where births happen,
also radiates úp from lonely tasks
which is completed (help me, St. Joseph!)
in the shrine of labour:

– Grant me the word! O, bless You the word:
You, ahead of whom as Road-builder
Gabriël with little rainbow-feathers
came to lay the Other Word in your ear
for consideration, later. Grant me the word:

earthy words (o Beloved like earth)
let her, who never found rest, have rest:
(brown like brown-people, brown like umbrian
smarting terra-cotta, brown, yes,
like the baked earth near Siena – )

brown skin from a cheap alley – even that is possible –
from Amsterdam, and the brownness of the world
near the market of thís Ancient-Barcelona
where small cantaloupes and watermelons
and young constables regard each other.

(O ‘brown’, that You: Lord and God, blessed
in your brown Nazarene-son who in Galilee
must’ve trodden footpaths, and sat down alongside mountains
talking all the while, and in the boat
could’ve uttered a great sound heard quite some distance.)

Beautiful, tiny, woman: in the radiant homage
which I, walking, attentively offer you: táke:
the white water of Tarragona, the bare
and the white of the mediterranean
almost-not-knowing, wind-blown full-well knówing.

Met erkenning aan die vertaling van Hein Viljoen wat die inspirasie was, & hiér geraadpleeg kan word by (


Lucas Malan

Lucas Malan

This bed is where we have our meets:
twisted sheets, clothes
and towels flung about;
a slovenly abandoned ring.

We eat a frugal breakfast now
– bread, orange juice, tea –
and fence for one more round
with hint and shamming talk

trying to save this tattered day,
yet sense with every smarting bruise
it’s punch-drunk and counted out
and we’ve completely lost the thread.


Lucas Malan

Paul Gaugin, 1897

When we slept together
like twins entwined
by sheets like a membrane
webbed – then we were one
in the blue place of dreaming
on soft pillows suffused
with a fiery rain of lilies
outside for we were still far removed
from treachery and deceit –

Like big smooth fruits, kin
to the fleshy flowers pressed
onto canvas green as clover,
proof against decay we were sheltered
by swooning light and the drowsiness
of our dozy domain – no word
could disturb it, neither man
nor the throb of pouncing waves
were close to us – who were sole.

Did we think, then, night after night
wet with sweat and milk-like
moisture – did we know the palms,
the maidenlip of orchids too
must wilt – did I know
how lonely Hagar must have been
sleeping alone that first night of nights
on the wrathful pillow illuminated
with the lightning of envy and scorn?


Lucas Malan

But first a toast to us, comrade,
who survived love; and left behind

in bunkers and trenches the hate;
who talked about our scars of late,

can still take aim and shoot in skillful way
a salvo distance quite some way.


Lucas Malan

Towards evening
returning to the pan
a bird, dusky winter fruit,
perched on a mopani bough,
on the cross-beam.
He saw the hazy day
blown about, and heard a lion
with his pride sigh content.

In the vlei there were finches
and frogs’ wet gibberish
bubbling – always burbling,
the marshy lot. He alone
was silent, betraying little
of his fear of night
which gradually floods the plains
with siphonage from below.


Lucas Malan

A farmhouse, oil lamps
and a playful Labrador:
witnesses to the night wind
in the garden.

A plover calls, it’s time
for milk and bread. In the guest room
a ghostly dance against the walls.

          All night through I heard
          you sigh faithfully,
          turn over and long –

A fig tree, orange orchard lined up
and blue-gums along the dam;
one morning long’s delay –

          The dog has later gone
          missing, you let me know,
          the fig tree chopped out.

But if you look closely
each evening at dusk
you’ll see with wagging tail
our big remorse come home.


Rock Art
Lucas Malan

Predecessors on this continent
as well as calabash and eland’s hide
also used stone to fabricate:
captured in ochre-hues, scenes depict
a hunting party or consecration feast
about a fire. A quaint contingent
these figures from a painter’s quill

that dance describing a history.
But stranger still an incident
from the Brandberg county
where a woman of much lighter grain
once took up the bow and against the rock
with strides like Penthesileia’s own
nimbly pricked the heavy stone –


In Camera
Lucas Malan

Entrenched in Duchess Court she kept:
antique furniture and a precarious dignity;
after fifty years as a midwife also the trick
of attracting people. Here she keeps photos,
old journals and her pain in fine detail.
The Royal Albert tea service (as a bride
picked out in Ansteys) she uses only for teas
like this – and all the snacks I made myself.
Now, this is the lounge where we’ll sit –

but let me show you something at the back
– pardon the confusion here, I sew
as well – designer stuff – the place
gets terribly untidy; and then of course
Lindy’s always in between. Sit down! Now sit!
She gets so worked up, you know. And this gate
I got for safety. But just look
at that: You really can see forever. Now
have you ever seen a view like that?

This dress I made for Marguerite. She came
round this morning – Miss South Africa of ‘68.
Never married, did you know? And still
as beautiful, although she’s put on weight.
Poor girl. I wonder though… Oh, never mind,
that’s just the way things go. Now come
let’s have some tea. Do you know this? Earl Grey.
Gavin brings it me, from London, always fresh.
He’s with the SAA, a gentleman and very kind –

The sun patch shifts, she makes more tea. We talk
of this and that: My husband died in ‘83, how sad
for me who had no kith or kin. But then,
you see, the Lord provides: little Lindy here’s
just like a child and such a pleasure. But what
will become of her when I …– She talks, and meanwhile
the light around us fades. It’s getting late,
she observes, but don’t go yet! You have to see
the view at night! I yield and we go out to see:

Like a sea the city lies, and burns inflamed
in outgrowths round the core; on the outskirts
poisonous yellow gleam runs along the seam
where upper crust and slums divide: a galaxy
torn down by gravity. This is the place
where people live, of passion and despair. She stares:
You know what this reminds me of? I listen,
then depart. But embedded in that metaphor
(a cemetery alight) I see an old placenta
hacked open – black, and terminally infected.


Lucas Malan

When you return
the cat will have been long dead,
gone like my brother, my apostate mother,
forgotten like the riots of ‘76
somewhere in Langa / Soweto,
like a third party disc from that time: forgotten.

You may be a little surprised
when you return
by the slight signs of wealth since
in the flat: the carpets, the marble,
the stereophonic Mozart,
my utter consolement within;


you’ll have to be careful now
for things have become rather brittle around here,
touchy and susceptible to rumours
about you and skeletons
in wardrobes and rooms;
what’s more, you can expect the clouds
to avenge your return with lightning.

I may not even be home
– earning a living, you know –
so call at the neighbour, she has a key,
and welcome nevertheless
in my fortress, my world, your imminent fate:
this utterly fucked-up survival.


Eugène N. Marais

The Dance of the Rain
Eugène N. Marais

Song of the fiddler, Jan Konterdans, from the Great Desert

Oh, the dance of our Sister!
First, over the hilltop she peeps slyly,
     and her eyes are shy;
          and she laughs softly.
From afar she beckons with one hand
her armlets shimmer and her beads sparkle;
          she calls softly.
She tells the winds about the dance
and she invites them, since the yard is wide and the wedding large.

The big game rush up from the plains,
     they gather on the hilltop,
their nostrils flare wide
     and they gulp the wind;
and they crouch, to see her delicate tracks in the sand.
The tiny ones, deep underground, hear the shuffle of her feet,
     and they crawl closer softly singing:
          “Our Sister! Our Sister! You came! You came!”

And her beads shake,
and her copper bangles shine in the vanishing sun.
     On her forehead rests the vulture’s fiery plume;
          she steps down from the heights;
     she spreads the dusty kaross with both arms;
          the wind’s breath is taken away.
          Oh, the dance of our Sister!


Adam Small

in memoriam Ingrid Jonker

on her cross-way at the final station
she heard the constellation
clifton lights tick one last time
(the stars decide our fate)

when the horses trot through the sea-bamboo
she shielded herself with both hands and withdrew

but the ocean like a man thrust against her thighs
and his hairy chest was death’s disguise


Lina Spies

Anne Sexton & Co
Lina Spies

What happened, Anne,
when you knocked
at nr. 45, Mercy street?
Didn’t anybody
open for you?

You were Anne with an e
like Anne of Green Gables
but for you God was not in his heaven
and all not well with the world.
You experienced miracles
like fallen angels rolling around in the salad,
walking fish;
poetry was more than an apple-green sky,
a white almond orchard and red maples in autumn;
belief more than evening prayer and confirmation classes:
more difficult, more dangerous – ghastly,

but love, you said, is simple like shaving-soap,
yet no man ever really got close to you,
except your father
and the fathers of beautiful, brainy daughters
raise them for death:
after him each man begets in her yet more death:

Ingrid, Sylvia, you:

When the salt of tears is no longer enough,
you can still walk into the waves and be washed up in pools
mercyfully still and deep for hermit crabs.
And when cold winter mornings
wake you like clock work
when you still want to lie covered
in sleep’s warm and dark lap,
you can lay your head in the oven,
turn open the hissing lullaby of the gas-pipe:
all at once you are a mute fetus,
no longer a child with canny talk,
a woman writing verse,

you no longer swallow tablets
against terminal insomnia and endogenic depression;
the camouflage of crafty prescriptions no longer necessary:

finally you can crawl back to the bones of the father
and feel God’s mercy
fall on you
clod by clod.


For Anne Frank of Het Achterhuis
Lina Spies

They remember the gas chambers, Auschwitz,
sifting ash of corpses, inconspicuously carried away by lonely rivers,
the girl in her Sabbath dress
tumbling down the well of death,
the woman knowing with sexless certainty
no child will issue from her cursed blood
to ever find the new, free world…

But in the secluded quarters there was much
humanity: Mrs. Van Daan,
edgily frightened, vainly-bored,
a mother’s subtle resistance,
because her child loves the father more…

And yet you had to grow accustomed
to your young blossoming – alone.
What good, if any, was your femininity?
Your last refuge you had to share
with yet another Jew –
dentist Dussell your unwelcome roommate.

Then you turned to him:
blue behind a smoky pane and a curtained frame
for a while lived brightly in his eyes…
but nature tolerates no surrogate –
you weighed, and found too light. Once again
Peter had only Mouschi to stroke
seeking comfort you confused the seasons
and imagined picking peonies and grape hyacinths in a dream.

More than Jew or Christian you knew
the human spirit can subsist
on joyously eating potatoes every day.


Wilma Stockenström (Photo by Liesl Jobson)

Woman in fur coat
Wilma Stockenström

The almost hairless hides herself with grace
in fox fur and monkey skin and curly fleece
thanks to the hunter, die butcher, the furrier.

And to her it doesn’t feel the least bit strange
to do her thing in another’s skin.

Between her and her suitor’s hide
she temporarily mounts the barrier of beast

and strips herself, and exposes the
tiny strip of mammalian hair of hers.

The next morning in shiny marten coat
she arranges round her sweet foxy face a frame
of collar, flashes tiny teeth, and vanishes.


(c) Johann de Lange, 2010