Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Antjie Krog

COUNTRY OF GRIEF AND GRACE

a.

between you and me
how desperately
how it aches
how desperately it aches between you and me

so much hurt for truth
so much destruction
so little left for survival

where do we go from here

your voice slung
in anger
over the solid cold length of our past

how long does it take
for a voice
to reach another

in this country held bleeding between us


b.

in the beginning is seeing
seeing for ages
filling the head with ash
no air
no tendril
now to seeing speaking is added
and the eye plunges into the wounds of anger

seizing the surge of language by its soft bare skull
hear oh hear
the voices all the voices of the land
all baptised in syllables of blood and belonging
this country belongs to the voices of those who live in it
this landscape lies at the feet at last
of the stories of saffron and amber
angel hair and barbs
dew and hay and hurt


c.

speechless I stand
whence will words now come?
for us the doers
the hesitant
we who hang quivering and ill
from this soundless space of an Afrikaner past?
what does one say?
what the hell does one do
with this load of decrowned skeletons origins shame and ash
the country of my conscience
is disappearing forever like a sheet in the dark


d.

we carry death
in a thousand cleaving spectres
affected
afflicted
we carry death

it latches its mouth to our heart
it sucks groaningly
how averse lures the light on our skin
it knows
our people carry death
it resembles ourselves
our stomachs wash black with it
a pouch of ink
we carry death into the houses
and a language without mercy
suddenly everything smells of violence

death snaps its repentless valves in our language
yes, indefatigable meticulous death


e.

deepest heart of my heart
heart that can only come from this soil
brave
with its teeth firmly in the jugular of the only truth that matters
and that heart is black
I belong to that blinding black African heart
my throat bloats with tears
my pen falls to the floor
I blubber behind my hand
for one brief shimmering moment this country
this country is also truly mine

and my heart is on its feet


f.

because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within

it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull
it sings   it ignites
my tongue   my inner ear   the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

I am changed for ever   I want to say
forgive me
forgive me
forgive me

you whom I have wronged, please
take me

with you


g.

this body bereft
this blind tortured throat

the price of this country of death
is the size of a heart

grief comes so lonely
as the voices of the anguished drown on the wind

you do not lie down
you open up a pathway with slow sad steps
you cut me loose

into light - lovelier, lighter and braver than song
may I hold you my sister
in this warm fragile unfolding of the word humane


h.

what does one do with the old
which already robustly stinks with the new
the old virus slyly manning the newly installed valves
how does one recognise the old
   with its racism and slime
its unchanging possessive pronoun
what is the past tense of the word hate
what is the symptom of brutalised blood
of pain that did not want to become language
of pain that could not become language

what does one do with the old
how do you become yourself among others
how do you become whole
how do you get released into understanding
how do you make good
how do you cut clean
how close can the tongue tilt to tenderness
or the cheek to forgiveness?

a moment
a line which says: from this point onwards
   it is going to sound differently
because all our words lie next to one another on the table now
shivering in the colour of human
we know each other well
each other’s scalp and smell   each other’s blood
we know the deepest sound of each other’s kidneys in the night
we are slowly each other
anew
new
and here it starts


i.

(but if the old is not guilty
does not confess
then of course the new can also not not be guilty
nor be held accountable
if it repeats the old

things may then continue as before
but in a different shade)

land van genade en verdriet

land van genade en verdriet

1.

tussen jou en my
hoe verskriklik
hoe wanhopig
hoe vernietig breek dit tussen jou en my

soveel verwonding vir waarheid
soveel verwoesting
so min het oorgebly vir oorlewing

waar gaan ons heen van hier?

jou stem slinger
in woede
langs die kil snerpende sweep van my verlede

hoe lank duur dit?
hoe lank vir ‘n stem
om ‘n ander te bereik

in dié land so bloeiende tussen ons


2.

in die begin is sien
sien vir eeue
die kop vul met as
geen suurstof
geen spriet
by sien word eindelik woord gevoeg
en die oog stort af in die woedende wond

hoor! hoor die opwel van medemenslike taal
         in haar sagte weerlose skedel
en hoor die stemme
die talige stemme van die land
   almal gedoop in die lettergreep van bloed en hoort
be-hoort die land uiteindelik aan die stemme wat daarin woon
lê die land aan die voete van verhale
   van saffraan en amber
   engelhaar en kwets
   dou en eer en draad


3.

woordeloos staan ek
waar sal my woorde vandaan kom?
vir die doeners
die huiweraars
die banges
wat bewend-siek hang
aan die geluidlose ruimte van ons onherbergsame verlede

wat sê ‘n mens?
wat de hel dóén ‘n mens
met dié drag ontkroonde geraamtes, oorsprong, skande en as

die land van my gewete verdwyn sissend
soos ‘n laken in die donker


4.

ons dra die dood
in duisend klowende gedaantes
drummelend
droef
dra ons die dood

hy klamp sy mond aan ons hart
hy drink steunend
hoe wars lok die lig op ons vel
dit weet
ons mense dra die dood
dit lyk na onsself
ons maghe spoel daar swart van
‘n buidel van ink
ons dra die dood die huis binne
en ‘n taal sonder genade
alles ruik ineens na geweld

die dood klap sy beroulose kleppe in ons taal
ja, die onverdrote deeglike dood


5.

hier langs die lang wit skaduwee
waar ek die weeklaag van sprinkaan wou agterlaat
van sprinkaan en dood wou laat, hoor ek die geluid
    die geluid van weeklaag

hier langs die lang wit skaduwee
waar ek glans gryp, eer gryp wat ooit glans was en luisterryk wit
het ek die waarheid gehoor en hoe om dit geweld aan te doen

dat ek reis dat ek afreis langs die koring en kaf van my verlede
wat voortkruip op sy dodelike knieë sonder om ooit een maal op te kyk
dat ek op my knieë voortklou na die plek

na die ademligte plek waar die lig nooit net wapper nie
hier allangs die lang wit skadu van dodelike en gemolesteerde waarheid
begraaf ons vele begraaf ons sonder dooskleed of ritueel

vele begraaf ons en uit die grafte spruit daar
die skaduwee spruit glans en klitsgras en koring
die geluid van sprinkaan hier langs die lang wit skadu

en my verlede sit so goed in sy tande al langs
sy tande sit dit goed in die skadu van sulfer en aluin en dit word tyd
die tyd van moordenaar en skaamte en tin

ek bly glip bly glip uit die waarhied
terwyl langs my die lang wit skaduwee sidder
wat ek was loop bruusk die lang wit siddering van as en skuld

sny my ek wat steeds glip in die lang wit skaduwee
uit tyd uit willekeur en leuens uit die onhoudbare siddering
allangs die leegheid van weeklaag en skadu

sny my van wraak en verlies van ruïne
sny my die lang wit litteken die ligeen en as sny my vry
in berou o my hand my hand gryp die laken soos ‘n keel


6.

die liggaam beroof
die blind gefolterde keel
die prys van die land van verskrikking
is die grootte van ‘n hart

verdriet draal so alleen
as die stemme van die angstiges verdrink op die wind

jy gee nie op nie
jy trap ‘n voetpad oop met seer versigtige stappe
jy sny my los

in lig in – liefliker, ligter en kraniger as lied

mag ek jou vashou my suster
in dié brose oopvou van ‘n nuwe, enkele medewoord


7.

diepste hart der harte
hart wat net kan bars uit hierdie swart aarde
onverskrokke
met tande ferm
in die slagaar van die enigste waarheid wat altyd opstaan
en in dié land is goddank altyd dié wat opstaan
opstaan en opstaan
teen die ander in
teen die eie in
teen geweld en onreg in
ek besing dié verblindende medemenslike hart
met ‘n lied van hoort en behoort
die keel smeul in trane
vir een kortstondig skitterende oomblik is dié land
waaragtig ons algar s’n

o my allerhart, jy kom verruk op die been!


8.

vanweë die verhale van verwondes
lê die land nie meer tussen ons nie
maar binne-in

sy haal asem
gekalmeer na die litteken
aan haar wonderbaarlike keel

in die wieg van my skedel sing dit
ontbrand dit
my tong   my binneste oor   die gaping van my hart
sidder vorentoe na die buitelyn
van ‘n woordeskat nuut in sag, intieme keelklanke

van my siel leer die retina oopgaan
daagliks – ‘n duisend woorde
skroei my tot ‘n nuwe tong

ek is vir altyd verander. Ek wil sê
vergewe my
vergewe my
vergewe my

jy wat ek veronreg het – seblief
neem my
met jou saam


9.

wat doen ‘n mens met die oue
wat so lustig saamstink in die nuwe
die ou virus beman reeds flink die nuwe kleppe

hoe herken mens die oue
met sy rassisme en slym
sy onveranderde besitlike voornaamwoord
wat is die verlede tyd van die woord haat
wat is die simptoom van gebrutaliseerde bloed
van pyn wat nie taal wou word nie
van pyn wat nie taal kón word nie

wat doen ‘n mens met die oue
hoe word jy jouself tussen ander
hoe word jy heel
hoe word jy vrygemaak in begrip
hoe maak jy goed
hoe sny jy skoon
hoe ná kan die tong tilt aan teerheid
   of die wang aan versoening

‘n punt
‘n lyn wat sê: van hier af
van dié moment af
gaan dit anders klink
want al ons woorde lê naas mekaar op die tafel
   bibberend van die kleur van mens
ons weet nou mekaar
mekaar se kopvel en reuk   mekaars bloed
ons weet die diepste geluide wat mekaar
   se niere maak in die nag
ons is stadig mekaar
opnuut
nuut
en hiér begin dit


10.

(maar as die oue nie skuldig is nie
   nie skuld bely nie
kan die nuwe natuurlik ook nie skuldig wees nie
en nooit voor stok gekry word
   as hy die oue herhaal nie
alles begin dus van voor af aan
dié slag anders ingekleur)
Close

COUNTRY OF GRIEF AND GRACE

a.

between you and me
how desperately
how it aches
how desperately it aches between you and me

so much hurt for truth
so much destruction
so little left for survival

where do we go from here

your voice slung
in anger
over the solid cold length of our past

how long does it take
for a voice
to reach another

in this country held bleeding between us


b.

in the beginning is seeing
seeing for ages
filling the head with ash
no air
no tendril
now to seeing speaking is added
and the eye plunges into the wounds of anger

seizing the surge of language by its soft bare skull
hear oh hear
the voices all the voices of the land
all baptised in syllables of blood and belonging
this country belongs to the voices of those who live in it
this landscape lies at the feet at last
of the stories of saffron and amber
angel hair and barbs
dew and hay and hurt


c.

speechless I stand
whence will words now come?
for us the doers
the hesitant
we who hang quivering and ill
from this soundless space of an Afrikaner past?
what does one say?
what the hell does one do
with this load of decrowned skeletons origins shame and ash
the country of my conscience
is disappearing forever like a sheet in the dark


d.

we carry death
in a thousand cleaving spectres
affected
afflicted
we carry death

it latches its mouth to our heart
it sucks groaningly
how averse lures the light on our skin
it knows
our people carry death
it resembles ourselves
our stomachs wash black with it
a pouch of ink
we carry death into the houses
and a language without mercy
suddenly everything smells of violence

death snaps its repentless valves in our language
yes, indefatigable meticulous death


e.

deepest heart of my heart
heart that can only come from this soil
brave
with its teeth firmly in the jugular of the only truth that matters
and that heart is black
I belong to that blinding black African heart
my throat bloats with tears
my pen falls to the floor
I blubber behind my hand
for one brief shimmering moment this country
this country is also truly mine

and my heart is on its feet


f.

because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within

it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull
it sings   it ignites
my tongue   my inner ear   the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

I am changed for ever   I want to say
forgive me
forgive me
forgive me

you whom I have wronged, please
take me

with you


g.

this body bereft
this blind tortured throat

the price of this country of death
is the size of a heart

grief comes so lonely
as the voices of the anguished drown on the wind

you do not lie down
you open up a pathway with slow sad steps
you cut me loose

into light - lovelier, lighter and braver than song
may I hold you my sister
in this warm fragile unfolding of the word humane


h.

what does one do with the old
which already robustly stinks with the new
the old virus slyly manning the newly installed valves
how does one recognise the old
   with its racism and slime
its unchanging possessive pronoun
what is the past tense of the word hate
what is the symptom of brutalised blood
of pain that did not want to become language
of pain that could not become language

what does one do with the old
how do you become yourself among others
how do you become whole
how do you get released into understanding
how do you make good
how do you cut clean
how close can the tongue tilt to tenderness
or the cheek to forgiveness?

a moment
a line which says: from this point onwards
   it is going to sound differently
because all our words lie next to one another on the table now
shivering in the colour of human
we know each other well
each other’s scalp and smell   each other’s blood
we know the deepest sound of each other’s kidneys in the night
we are slowly each other
anew
new
and here it starts


i.

(but if the old is not guilty
does not confess
then of course the new can also not not be guilty
nor be held accountable
if it repeats the old

things may then continue as before
but in a different shade)

COUNTRY OF GRIEF AND GRACE

a.

between you and me
how desperately
how it aches
how desperately it aches between you and me

so much hurt for truth
so much destruction
so little left for survival

where do we go from here

your voice slung
in anger
over the solid cold length of our past

how long does it take
for a voice
to reach another

in this country held bleeding between us


b.

in the beginning is seeing
seeing for ages
filling the head with ash
no air
no tendril
now to seeing speaking is added
and the eye plunges into the wounds of anger

seizing the surge of language by its soft bare skull
hear oh hear
the voices all the voices of the land
all baptised in syllables of blood and belonging
this country belongs to the voices of those who live in it
this landscape lies at the feet at last
of the stories of saffron and amber
angel hair and barbs
dew and hay and hurt


c.

speechless I stand
whence will words now come?
for us the doers
the hesitant
we who hang quivering and ill
from this soundless space of an Afrikaner past?
what does one say?
what the hell does one do
with this load of decrowned skeletons origins shame and ash
the country of my conscience
is disappearing forever like a sheet in the dark


d.

we carry death
in a thousand cleaving spectres
affected
afflicted
we carry death

it latches its mouth to our heart
it sucks groaningly
how averse lures the light on our skin
it knows
our people carry death
it resembles ourselves
our stomachs wash black with it
a pouch of ink
we carry death into the houses
and a language without mercy
suddenly everything smells of violence

death snaps its repentless valves in our language
yes, indefatigable meticulous death


e.

deepest heart of my heart
heart that can only come from this soil
brave
with its teeth firmly in the jugular of the only truth that matters
and that heart is black
I belong to that blinding black African heart
my throat bloats with tears
my pen falls to the floor
I blubber behind my hand
for one brief shimmering moment this country
this country is also truly mine

and my heart is on its feet


f.

because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within

it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull
it sings   it ignites
my tongue   my inner ear   the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

I am changed for ever   I want to say
forgive me
forgive me
forgive me

you whom I have wronged, please
take me

with you


g.

this body bereft
this blind tortured throat

the price of this country of death
is the size of a heart

grief comes so lonely
as the voices of the anguished drown on the wind

you do not lie down
you open up a pathway with slow sad steps
you cut me loose

into light - lovelier, lighter and braver than song
may I hold you my sister
in this warm fragile unfolding of the word humane


h.

what does one do with the old
which already robustly stinks with the new
the old virus slyly manning the newly installed valves
how does one recognise the old
   with its racism and slime
its unchanging possessive pronoun
what is the past tense of the word hate
what is the symptom of brutalised blood
of pain that did not want to become language
of pain that could not become language

what does one do with the old
how do you become yourself among others
how do you become whole
how do you get released into understanding
how do you make good
how do you cut clean
how close can the tongue tilt to tenderness
or the cheek to forgiveness?

a moment
a line which says: from this point onwards
   it is going to sound differently
because all our words lie next to one another on the table now
shivering in the colour of human
we know each other well
each other’s scalp and smell   each other’s blood
we know the deepest sound of each other’s kidneys in the night
we are slowly each other
anew
new
and here it starts


i.

(but if the old is not guilty
does not confess
then of course the new can also not not be guilty
nor be held accountable
if it repeats the old

things may then continue as before
but in a different shade)
Sponsors
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Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
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