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Three New Poems

Antjie Krog was born and grew up in the Free State province of South Africa. She became editor of the Afrikaans current-affairs magazine Die Suid-Afrikaan and later worked as a radio journalist covering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. She and her radio colleagues received the Pringle Award for excellence in journalism for their coverage of the Commission hearings, from which came the best known of her three non-fiction books, Country of My Skull. She has won major awards in almost all the genres and media in which she has worked: poetry, non-fiction and translation. But, mainly, she has lived as a poet. Krog’s first volume of poetry was published when she was 17 years old and she has since released thirteen volumes, the most recent of which is Skinned (2013).

 

12 weeks 4 days sonar

sound waves discovered to trace icebergs and hostile
submarines a lifelong ago  locate you now
and thousands of kilometres away on my computer screen
I stare in perplexity at the microcosmic scrapings of light
confirming your presence

in a bone hollow you lie like a tiny pinned speckle
part of the order of angels     a small dough-like crumple
so light still that it could not bear any kind of name

but beholding you with a mouthful of eyes
I notice something     something inevitably humanlike
in what transcribes as a minute head-and-body syllable
pilfering light – a kind of inner bonelight – from
the surrounding prune-dark universe
which expands with its lung-effervescence chaos of sound and chemistry

one knows the diminutive eye in the grainy skull-bag is eye
but words stand transfixed at the little nose’s slice-clean
fought-free grace-line    the exhausted earth
is being set free by this   peace takes breath here

is this a stump-fingered little hand    this
silver piece beady as cauliflower?
prrrrr says the late autumn white-face owlet
kra calls the bushveld francolin
boldly breath-ed the ventricles are being woven
the dreaming cerebrum begins its consciousness of blue

and yet it is as if I am staring
at a drawing on a cave wall
how had something, something I do not know myself
but something of me
pegged a miniscule claim in that delicate flake form
that from our peculiarly (un)free-hammered fatherland I can say:
that foreign fernlet there across the sea
is my flesh

an eland stands at a kuil

an eland stands at a kuil   it is winter

as I am driving past
her head  is bowed down to the water
the water mirrors the sky
the sky pewters the klein-karoo clouds

I suddenly see the infinite scarless sky
the grass plains un-lonely    I see
the eland, the darkening-up water and
the mountain range mauve-blue settling its slopes

I stop: the eland the water the plains
the mountains burn into my retina  I can feel
how something in me tries to open tries to find how
the eland the water and the mountains are part

of a memory of interminable slipping-forwardness
how do they know of one another?

does the eland feel in her horns the whetting sounds of stars?
does her tongue of water-molecule taste the pastel wisps
of cloud? does mountain-infinity rustle forth
in tawny coloured stalks? do the mountains emit fragrance
when the eland’s clip-clop drifts up?

do they die as side-worlds off from one another
or do the dewlap and stone plunge seamlessly into one another?
was the eland mountain before it was cloud?
was grass once eland?  distressed I sit

and look at the eland the mountain and the sky so nothing
do I remember of the de-nothinged from which I come
so nothing I understand of the narrow nothingness towards
which I am going – perilous in afterlife tatters I scrape
collapsing little holes towards the great godly nought 

 

when the youngest

when the youngest child moved out of the house there was
silence for a few days as we plumped ourselves in the extra
space with nobody observing us     then we began to fight:
enormous frightening quarrels in which with a sudden

hatred and abhorrence we wanted to tramplerape and gut
each other – it was vicious and continued for days
in decibel even more frightening than the vocabulary
because one could yell from the other side of the house:
turn it DOWN you selfish piece of pigshit! a chair creaking:

fuck off cuntface! turning it louder    just fuck-off! why don’t
you just fuckoff from my life you pathetic turdhouse! doors
slammed a plate broke by god I have always known you’re
a fucking barbarian somebody throwing crockery is lower

than worm shit something else breaking Jesus Christ shall
I moer in your airless head     with psyched-up spines and
distorted mouths hands and knees we excessed ourselves
at each other no child crying no tender psyche snapping

eventually it all calmed down and I became aware of blood
in the toilet and that you had a certain kind of cough
in the mornings unobtrusively we began to bring our
money matters up to date and for the first time set

the burglar alarm at night    when I fell asleep
behind the wheel and the tyre burst against
the pavement       you found me like that
and held me for a long time too tight

like people in a trench
we have begun to look out for each other
one’s loss is
the other’s wane.

 

These poems were selected for inclusion in the January 2014 Translation Issue by Daniel Medin, a contributing editor of The White Review. He helps direct the Center for Writers and Translators at the American University of Paris, and is Associate Series Editor of The Cahiers Series.



ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR


was born and grew up in the Free State province of South Africa. She became editor of the Afrikaans current-affairs magazine Die Suid-Afrikaan and later worked as a radio journalist covering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. She and her radio colleagues received the Pringle Award for excellence in journalism for their coverage of the Commission hearings, from which came the best known of her three non-fiction books, Country of My Skull. She has won major awards in almost all the genres and media in which she has worked: poetry, non-fiction and translation. But, mainly, she has lived as a poet. Krog’s first volume of poetry was published when she was 17 years old and she has since released thirteen volumes, the most recent of which is Skinned (2013).