Thursday, October 15, 2015


you walk, between
two worlds
we follow those steps
the seashores, robben island, the open plains
the interstices between death & vitality

the narrow path between my song & dance

you, a linguist of note
speak to us!
interpret, read the signs
make a song from the symbols
that dot these walls
for we so often
lost, adrift, bobbing uneasily
between the veils of translation

she works the words
from the stomach
through tongue & breath & spaces of the skull 
word by word
she weighs up
the men who stand before her
    the words work & rework her
she invests them with breath
from worlds within
she rolls them on her tongue
she births them
in cool air
or sunshine

diplomat, broker, interloper
the vine joining ground & air

who will translate for us
the sea's utterances
the wind's murmers
the look of the kori bustard
the small fires that sputter & crackle
from the entrails of wet sticks 
the line of the pass
that bends through my mountain thoughts
& pieces of land
that stand solid
as we migrate from outposts & peripheries
to teaming centres
via farmers’ markets & trading posts

weaver of strands

hold us, your children
in your imagination
send us braided messages
send love & affection & chants
& sighs of longing

those feet walked
the calloused life
doubted here (at the kraal), mistrusted there (at the fort)
inspected, suspected & suspended
in other's dreams
you dreamt of wanderings & walkabouts
as you donned the garb, buttoned up
stood in thin shade
cast by
the houses of colonialism

van riebeeck's orders
van meerhof’s manners
the tight fitting name: 'eva'
the controls & constraints
that flowed
from their pens
as they counted you & logged you
in diaries & registers

in your death
you – & we with you – escape this
we walk among shrubs, grow into trees, embrace wind
we flow with the pain
we walk the shoreline

the single mother
the abandoned partner
the searcher for meaning, in multiples abuses
searching for some truth
of a life in the margins
the lichen that stays
on rock
even as the tide retreats

you stand with us
renditioned, trafficked, exiled
simply ignored
or made to labour for bread & tots
when we are made to trade
cattle for goods
you walk alongside
the uncertain returnee
the desperate ones who come through beit bridge
those stolen from africa
the children plucked & taken thousands of miles

me, extrapolated & replanted in strange settings

in your death
an astuteness, in your silence
a vocality
through your death
mishak can be swathed
in the eye
of the moment
jemma can wander the sky
cole can lope through landscapes 
that existed in the time before time

when we toil away, or measure hours, offer silent service
under the lash of the sun
when we
bear the unbearable
when we are overwhelmed
and fizzle out, succumbing
to nervous conditions
when depression
crawls over skin
like a shadow
may we think of you

may we think of the mopani tree, the boegoe plant
the needles of the rooibos
the aloe & its healing bitterness
the acacia's thorn
used for stitching
& you .... a sturdy bough

Frank Meintjies

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