Sunday, 25 December 2011

die Verstaan

glimlag, die tee moet bedien word
glimlag, die skaapboud moet gesny word
glimlag, al skeur elke denk-oomblik
nog ‘n stukkie van die hart af

ek glimlag te midde van ‘n stortvloed van seer,
want die-een-wat-verstaan is dood,
en ek het hom vermoor

langs die branders en die goudbruin sand
het ek hom die verstaan gegee, en hy’t dit verorber,
glimlaggend vir my die vertrou teruggegee, toe die son oor die see
met engelegesang opkom

maar later vind ek hom in die badkamer, brakend,
hy jaag my weg met woede en wantrou.
uiteindelik is hy daar dood,
dood tussen my tandeborsel en my seep,
diep en daagliks vertroud het hy vergaan.

ék het hom vermoor, versmoor met die verstaan,
en nou lê sy lyk in die badkamer bo,
terwyl ek hier onder moet glimlag, glimlag, glimlag,
terwyl die hart binne skree, en ween.


smile, the tea needs to be served
smile, the gammon needs carving
smile, though every thought tears
another part of the heart in tatters

I smile amidst a deluge of sorrow
because the one-who-understands is dead,
and I was the one to murder him.

next to the surf and the sunsoothed sand
I gave him Understanding, and he devoured it.
smilingly, he gave me Trust, as the sun shattered
its rays across the sea, accompanied by angelic song.

but then I found him, vomiting in the bathroom,
chasing me away with wrath and distrust.
in the end he died there, there between toothpaste and soap,
tokens of daily trust deeply held.

it was I who murdered him, smothered him with Understanding,
and now his corpse lies upstairs in the bathroom,
while I, downstairs, must smile and smile and smile,
as the heart within rages and mourns.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

'n Vrees

'n Vrees is net 'n honger
na sekerheid. Ek vrees,
omdat die liefde, dalk,
kan opdroog.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Lesson #16 of the Inner Life

Do not denigrate your joys because there are sorrows.
And do not disrespect your sorrows because there are joys.
As it is written: Rejoice with those that rejoice; Weep with those that weep.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


ek is omring deur drieduisend Nee's;
in daardie konsentrasiekamp van Ek,
hoe gee ek uiting aan die een sku Ja
wat al die wêrelde omring?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

An Ode to Women

An Ode to the Incarnations of
Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Hera and Persephone

late have I loved you, lesser love, late was the hour I came to your halls
and found not the utterly Other, but the other akin to myself
clad in raiments sharper than stars, and stranger.

my brethren oft proceed to apologize when they encounter you, profusely,
saying justice eludes their utterance. Justice I know not in this,
yet perhaps I who gained speech of soul before being dumbstruck by you
can sing your praises the better for my earlier poverty.

for how can one not sing when the slow soft slopes of your eyes
like the bows of starladen ships steer the mind to song? How can silence stay
before the silken pools of radiance beneath those dark lashes? It flees
like a bird into song, alighting gently in the calm centre of the iris:
a still place in the storm of sensuality.

amidst those dual delights, with a dignity marble never achieves,
the brow and the nose cast forth like rocks amidst the spray of radiant ocean
to provide a hint, tantalizing and taunting, of the deep depths you would yield
to the one who would dare to drown in the mysteries below.

sparkling as shells upon the sand, too, are the lips, set as if in honour
in the midst of the cliffs of chin and cheek, golden and soft in the afternoon sun,
blessed the one who may spend his days in the shade of such elegance!

above all these, as the far clouds around the moon, silver in the dark of the night,
flow forth as a torrent of velvet, the crown of delight, raven hair in streams,

dark as midnight and as secret. Flaxen hair, sharp as sunlight, soft as sweet caramel,
toying between the fingers like a small fish in a mountain stream, playful.
Earthen hair, as rich and as varying as nature, enfolding with fecund promise,
only to yield a thousandfold in the sacred silence of the unspoken hours

below all these, as the base of a column which would dare the heavens,
the neck with soft strength lies, carved yet gentle, sharp yet supple,
flowing down, as a garment made for dancing, down to shoulders
so aptly one expects the applause of an audience, rapt in awe. How can one not,
before such ivory arms, such nimble fingers, such noble poise in regal wrists?

the swaying of your hips are as the beating of waves upon the shore, as effortless,
as endlessly refreshing. Such a silhouette in starlight tempt one to worship,
such reverence does it inspire, the curves of hidden delight flowing up
towards a kind heaven in the rhythm of soft chanting.

all the dances of far exotic lands have not yet exhausted the elegance of the ankle,
the imperial lines of the feet, and the long slender arch of the legs
which complete your frame with a symmetry art cannot equal.

of the rest I beg silence, to speak of them would be to profane, though
their splendour makes the heart ache, the innocence too sharp to touch
without bleeding, a beauty so beautiful it is perilous, to gaze is death
to the uninitiated.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Triduum Reflections

It is Good Friday. The most harrowing of Christian days. Not Maundy Thursday, the tenderness of the Last Supper where the Church chants with joy : You have prepared for us a royal priesthood and stands with awe and thanksgiving at the fount of that Sacrifice that still sustains her daily. Nor is Good Friday filled with that pregnant silence, nervous and trembling, that marks Holy Saturday: a silence and a darkness, but a silence that hopes.

No. Good Friday is the culmination of that awful stripping that occurs at the end of the liturgy of Holy Thursday. There is no blessing. There is no dismissal. Just a horrid prefiguring silence as the sacerdotal procession departs and every fabric, every decoration is torn from the sanctuary. It is a silence, bare and unadorned, that continues through the anguished hours of prayer in Gethsemane to the Good Friday liturgy, which again starts in that silence. There is no hymn here, no broadly intoned melody to cause one to rise with exuberant expectation. No. Only the slow shuffling of feet as the procession enters. The solemn rhythm of prayer up to the sanctuary and then the priest prostrates himself before the altar with such an unbearable silence that one looks away. Rising from there, the service simply begins with the Collect, the opening prayer. No sign of the Cross, no introduction, no invitatory chant or psalm. Nothing. And then you understand that this is the same silence that departed from the sanctuary but a day ago. It is of the same fabric, though deeper.

How then does one fathom this God that sought us out to such ends that He endured the Cross? It struck me today, as I say there amongst the multitudes holding the crucifix before my eyes. How do I make this mystery real and authentic in my heart, I wondered, as I proceeded to the sanctuary to kiss the Cross, the brutality of my salvation cold on my lips. As I knelt, I realized how subversive Good Friday is. How frightfully it undermines me.

Because the Cross says two things to me today. That He loved me before I could respond, and that it comes to me as a gift that cost Him all. In this way, the Cross runs completely opposite to the two great movements that we all have: to deserve and to do. That is: to be worthy of something and be treated correspondingly, and to act so as to become worthy. I want to achieve by my actions a measure of worthiness, so that it remains mine. I want to be deserving, so that my justice holds: I mete out love to the deserving, and they to me, and so I have a measure of control over my world. Because it is my world, and I act to keep it so.

The Cross refuses to bend to this. His Love is poured out in that catastrophic terror of the Cross long before I can become ready to receive it. I can’t ever catch my breath to make the first move and so retain some semblance of dignity when entering into this mystery of my salvation. No. It is all there, a gutwrenching outpouring of His blood on the wood and the rocks, and the wailing of women that should be weeping rather for themselves and their children. How can I ever prepare for this? I can’t. I have to let this control and preparation dissipate, and simple receive what I didn’t even ask for. Grace. Forgiveness. Peace.

So if all deserving becomes a meaningless breath of wind fluttering away before the Saviour raised up on the Cross, what am I to do? ‘Freely you have received, freely give’. The Cross establishes a pattern of Love that alters one. First, in the receiving, because to receive it means to reject the paradigm of calculated deserving. Second, in the giving anew, because Grace can never end. The Trinity itself eternally loves and is loved. God is One, but Three, so that there is Giver and Gift and Giving in everlasting exchange. Grace that ends and is held and not passed to the Other is not Grace. But you see the Cross makes this pattern frightening, because it means that my love must be as the Love that mounted that Cross: real, vulnerable and uncalculating. And perhaps most frighteningly, my Love may have to precede its reciprocation, and involve pain. Do I trust my Father enough to pass through that self-outpouring? Jesus did.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

post pruinam

trust is not harvested
like spring flowers after
frost and bitter snow

Trampled Pearls & Innocent Swine

when did it become insult not to cherish,
and unforgivable not to include in all things?
when did greeting demand acquaintance,
acquaintance demand friendship,
and friendship demand all intimacy?
when did it become subversive to guard what is precious,
to hide what is misunderstood,
and to protect what is brittle?
ah, I see! I see why you are so tired, so dissipated.
you are dividing a heart among thousands, and punching
entry tickets at the door of the secret of your soul.

Musings after Meeting a Façade

                                                  I spit
on your constructed artificialities, scorn
the farce you think your soul, resent
the froth your clichés churn. So, call
me callous and cruel, but I think you might just like
yourself, if you knew even who you were. I don't,
and you are making it impossible to find out.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Sudor Vultus

this world, fragile underfoot,
pungent and precocious, wild,
yields its rich fruits to our arms,
to our silver slicing blades

but we pay with our water, dripping
from the brows, everlasting testament
that beauty comes not without pain,
and thorns grow amidst the fruit

we pierce you, earth, and you pierce us,
you nourish even as you afflict,
you are bound to us, but we are not bound to you,
and you, servant, will be remade.