Three Poems

Toast Coetzer

own terms

you are here on own terms
just like Omar al-Bashir and his walking stick, Jeb Bush and his exclamation mark, Nasser al-Wuhayshi and his final meal, a regular sickle-bush, a lone donkey at a dry spring

the desert wind blows, on its own terms,
waves of sandgrouse, whirring balls of dust, are loosened
from the far-off mountains where the single horn
of an old oryx bull catches the light

you are here on own terms, with the cancer
that ring-barked you, the drunk pick-up
that burst through the fence and snapped
the telephone pole in half so it came to
rest on your forehead naming
all the names of your leaking things

here it is, your heart in a photograph
still printed at the CNA, underneath a shirt
in which you were smaller, your skin softer,
your hair thicker, laughing

there’s a time when everyone – al-Bashir, all Bushes,
also Zuma – will be dead, and the people who stand around
those graves, with pretend tears, or thorns in their palms,
will recognize, in the sharp corners of the hole, the depth
thereof, the end-of-story of all our outcomes.

circulations of blood

the furthermost bend
the outermost loop
the circulation of blood
the veins tied
and knotted in a sack
on the old wagon trail where copperfeet can buy:
elephant-foot coffee-table, fist of ostrich ashtray, rhino-horn snuff
pigeon down the axe-handle – this is CGI, live, for your brain – down to the blade
and split the mouth (of the blade, of the axe)
open to the face of a tree (the blade now)
and the circulation (of the tree’s)
outer windshell, open-wound capillaries, woodtongue, wet-heart,
soil’s brains, human donga, words welded together from the moving parts of guns –
I collect the cries of people
(the victims, the oppressed, the nameless dead)
which go unheard and I place them
far in the world, check this!
ant here on your wall its
tiny white shadow
its teeny circulation
step on it and flatten it
there’s not even blood in it
far on the loop of the lassoed equator
your globe is round as to fit in your iris
and far and south and wide and west and needle to the north
(via a short compass rap song)
with you as the polar traveller with lips around which seal fat glistens
and footbones around which wrapped is meat
around which stiff socks and thick shoes
Crocs-rubber, spaceboot-esque
like Biblical loaves, submarines, frozen Dachshunds are cracked into the snow,
deepening the spoor on the frozen white continent
which for most of our eyes
will remain forever hidden, see
a cataract can be pulled from your eye
like the skin of a fruit
in the circulation of blood through the thinking, devout forehead,
the unbiological main-brain of do and execute, fuck and chop
a grey grenade in the bed of cupped hands filled with delicate pamplemousse and wild thoughts, man, wild thoughts, note that the cataract is in the shape of Antarctica
the back-of-head oblongata’s cup of blood – a pulped mulberry-macchiato
in which lies your ability to unhuman (knives,
nails, pangas, paedophilia, matricide), to be free, to drunk, to shithead,
to bungee-jump, to mad, to crazy, to love, to mother, to father,
in your ear where the sounds of outer space collect as
Toyota Yaris in second gear, red-chested cuckoo, gravel-takkies, downwind-rhebok whistle, next door TV sitcom laughter, chair, creaking vertebrates, silky rushing waters, cities’ din, Karoo lark wing-twirp, braked groan of windmill, the without-word small-puppy sound, budgie, alarms, paranoid helicopters of state –
constitutes the circulation of blood, human, you and I are bound by this red ribbon
which shoots like Spiderman’s yarn from my pulse to there, between you and her, and her and her mother, and her mother and her dead grandfather, and his deader father, and the deadmost greatmother buried in a shallow flash-grave by the trek-route, or under a tree somewhere, or overhang, big flu or bullets, lion’s tooth, spears or just some unknown, gnawing cancer – there’s your golden string, there’s your mulberry-macchiato, your underwater alma mater, your pre-history which slinks backwards to your proto-otterhole, the maelstrom from which shines the light to your staring eye to see:
the hungers, the pillaging, the loneliness, the sadism, the lies of leaders,
the love of money, greed, sighs, sombre and shitty rock bands, frogs in mountain pools, gull eating potato chip, your karma measured in likes, for we all have followers these days as we’re all types of jesuses, the exactness of the heartbeat, from which the footfall, the fingerprints on the window, the remnants of a face in the sand, all of this drip from your finger to the floor, word by word:

Anene Booysen

the wind has died down
in Bredasdorp
it is Saturday evening
ten o’clock
and Anene Booysen
is dead
she was lured away from a party
she was led from the light
wrapped in a dark blanket
of un-understanding
four men raped her
broke her bones
broke her fingers
all of her fingers
then they slaughtered her
ripped out her intestines
and threw it down on the sand
next to Ou Meule Street
on a building site
where she worked
as a cleaner
during the week
she was still alive
wore her black Grasshoppers
when security guards
found her
she was taken to hospital
in Bredasdorp
where the woman who raised her
who wasn’t her mother
was allowed to dab a block of ice
to Anene’s thirsty lips and she heard that Anene
was tired and wanted to sleep
Anene was transferred to Worcester
then Tygerberg
for emergency surgery
and to die
she knew one of the cowards
the murderers
the rapists
the men
wait – one of the suspects
was a woman – and she
said his name before
she died
it might have been
her ex-boyfriend
it was someone
who grew up with her
on the same street
Duine Street
and who was like
a member of the family
in her home
how did it feel
to say his name?
the wind has died down
in Bredasdorp
and we are left to sit
silently in the dry reeds

translated from the Afrikaans by Toast Coetzer