Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Charl-Pierre Naudé

How I got my name

(or, A Concise History of Colonisation)


Giving a name to something
is to breath life into it.
Of all the ways animals procreate,
protect and survive communally,
a single member giving a name
to another is the thing
that changes the species forever.

Giving names
is the origin of humanity.
The beginning of Creation.
Why Darwin is wrong.
And the reason why his cat left.

The granting of names is also the reason
why God created Heaven and Earth within seven days.
Seven names in one family are more than enough.

Giving a name to another is an act of Love.
(A ruthless act of subjugation
too, which we’ll leave unprobed for now.)

My parents gave me a name
about which I have divided feelings.
My name sports a hyphen,
seeming no less divided about itself.

But one must treat one’s name with utmost care –
because it doesn’t belong to you.
It is a way in which other people express their love.

The name I have is a stem-with-leaves
plucked from the Huguenot diaspora bush
but the roots stayed behind, and the corolla too.

I was a few months old already,
the sickly captain of a waterlogged paper boat,
my feet struggling in their socks like red romans in a scoop,
when pa realised that my name
had been misspelt in the national register.  
There are differing accounts as to why those erstwhile refugees
from France forfeited their language so readily:
they were actually a Germanic tribe shod and bow-tied against their will
in a handyman language of the Devil toady to the Pope.
Or else, they were so anxious to learn the birdy language of heaven
that casting off earthly mumbo-jumbo was only a pleasure.
Scarcely had the road’s flurry of dust angels
laid down in their rest again when the old foot-sloggers
forgot how to spell their own names.
The new vineyard cannot be trusted.
Neither its goblet of Holy Communion.

But alas, my dad was an erudite man.
He would rectify the problem for ever.
The settlers of Africa always get things wrong.
But it is never too late too set the record straight.
So he got into his Willy’s Jeep to brave the hundred
or so kilometres to the main town of remote East Griqualand
where he was a doctor, through driving snow and rain
– where people paid him with chickens and eggs –
and got lost in the creeping mist, his limbs disappearing piece
by piece as the Jeep laboured through sludge, on a mythical journey.
The windscreen would clear under the wipers and the buried scape
would blink, and instantly disappear again under flung snow.
It was a question of correctness, of knowing thyself:
his son’s name must have the original spelling.
A wagon had crushed half of it, another part was just gone.
That wasn’t good enough. It was time for the record.
No half-baked name for his boy. Time for memory.
For love. My father was a very sweet man.

But the attempt failed.
Again the name miscarriaged;
more South African now, pidginised even more.
Further away from its roots, more in the future.
More itself than anyone could imagine.
The ‘es’ of  the French Charles, as in Charles Baudelaire
(I’ll fancy myself )
no, more precisely Charles Pierre Baudelaire,
was as gone as ever, and never retrieved.
My name remained Charl.
Simply syncopated.
Maybe the lizard had got a fright, and lost its tail,
which then was bottled by a sangoma.
And the hyphen of all those boring Jean-Pierres,
a splinter-insert for joining a vowel
to its follow-up consonant, ended in my name.
It must have been an earthquake that shook up
the splinters and the spaghetti alphabets
everywhere at that moment exactly, when my dad
stuck his hand in the name jar.

Yip, that is what happened.
That same earth tremor also jumbled
some other very important names and events.
Look what it did to Genghis Garibaldi,
the man after whom Guy Fawkes is named.
Or poor Henry VIII, beheaded six times
by his awful wife because it didn’t work
the first time, neither the second, and so forth.
And the Indian emperor who built
that beautiful mausoleum, the Vatican, for his dead wife –
one can always trust the genitals to float
a breathtaking construction on holy water.
And don’t forget the First Lateran Council,
one of the most sombre fashion parades of evening gowns ever
and entirely negligible due to that self-denial
inherent to such business,
whereafter a lot of unhappy souls
discovered they had female bodies.
I got off lightly.

My name is spelt wrong
but in the right way.
You only have to compare it
to other versions, to see this is true.
Its origin lies
not in the past but in the future,
in a dictionary still drifting in space,
its thesaurus hovering right next to it,
according to astronomers.
A John and a Jack;
two brother galaxies,
two drag queens:
a girl dressed in the same design
but for a different season.

The future:
roots spreading in the air;
my name is a tree that dived into the earth.

And I sport my hyphen
like a plaster on my nose.
I walk into the kitchen again.
I am a little boy.
To where mom stands.
To where she still stands, in my memory.
She rubs on the plaster to secure it.
This is our secret.
We pretend together.
I loved it then, why wouldn’t
I love it now?

We smile at each other,
my mom and I.
In a while, just now,
my dad will be back.
I can’t wait.
He’ll crouch next to me,
pout his lips intently
and carefully examine the strip on my nose.
Then he will ask me what is wrong.

Hoe ek my naam gekry het

Hoe ek my naam gekry het

(of ’n Beknopte relaas van kolonisasie)


Om ’n naam aan iets te gee,
is om lewe daarin te blaas.

Van al die maniere waarop diere voortplant,
mekaar beskerm en saam oorleef
is dit die gee van ’n naam deur een
aan ’n ander wat die spesie vir ewig
in iets anders verander.

Die gee van name  
is die ware oorsprong van die mensdom.
Die begin van die Skepping.
Waarom Darwin verkeerd is.
En hoekom sy kat weggeloop het.

Die gee van name is ook die rede
dat God hemel en aarde binne sewe dae geskape het.
Sewe name in ’n huishouding is meer as genoeg.

’n Daad van liefde, is die gee van ’n naam.
(’n Meedoënlose daad
van onderwerping ook, maar dit daar gelaat.)

My ouers het my ’n naam gegee  –
’n naam waaroor ek verdeeld voel,
wat spog met ’n koppelteken
en klaarblyklik nie minder verdeeld is in homself nie.

Maar ’n mens moet baie versigtig met jou naam omgaan
want dit behoort nie aan jou nie.
’n Naam is ’n manier waarop ander mense liefhet.

My naam is ’n stingel met blare
gepluk uit die Hugenote-diasporabossie
maar die wortels en die kroon het agtergebly.

Nou weet ek waarom daai ander digter
sy ewe bloemryke naam
in Jan Blom verander het.

Ek was reeds ’n paar maande oud,
die siekerige kaptein van ’n papierbootjie wat water trek,
my voete spartelend in hul sokkies soos stompneuse in ’n hoos,
toe pa besef my naam in die nasionale register is verkeerd.
Verskeie teoriëe bestaan oor waarom daardie ou vlugtelinge
uit Frankryk hul taal so gou verloor het:
Hulle was eintlik ’n Germaanse stam, teen hul sin geskoei en gestrik
in ’n handlanger-taal van die Duiwel wat gewitvoetjie het by die Pous.
Of, gretig om die voëltjietaal van die hemel aan te leer,
was dit louter plesier om aardse gebrabbel af te skud.
Skaars het die stof-engeltjies in die pad gaan lê
of die ou voetslaners vergeet hoe om hul eie name te spel.
’n Mens kan die nuwe wingerd nie vertrou nie,
en ook nie sy Nagmaalbeker nie.

Maar my pa was ’n ingeligte man:
hy sou die probleem vir ewig regstel.
Die setlaars van Afrika doen mos alles verkeerd . . .
Tog, nooit te laat om ’n fout reg te maak nie.
Toe klim hy in sy Willy’s Jeep om die honderd myl of so
na die hoofdorp van Oos-Griekwaland aan te durf –
waar hy streeksdokter was en die mense hom
met hoenders en eiers betaal het – deur die vlae sneeu en reën
en verdwaal in die kruipende mis, sy liggaamsdele
wat stuk vir stuk voor sy oë verdwyn, terwyl die Jeep
deur die modderkonfyt kreun op ’n mitiese reis.
Die toegegooide landskap het onophoudelik
onder die skopgraaf van die ruitveër geknipoog,
in die verwisseling van sneeulae op die ruit.
Dit was ’n beginselsaak dié, ’n kwessie van jouself-ken:
Sy seun se naam moet die oorspronklike spelling hê;
nie soos dit nou daar staan, ’n deel daarvan
onder die wawiel vergruis, ’n ander deel net skoonveld.
Nie goed genoeg nie. Tyd vir bestekopname.
Geen halfgebakte naam vir sy spruit nie.
Tyd vir geheue, nou. Vir liefde om betoon te word
op die behoorlike manier. Hy was dierbaar, my pa.

Maar die poging het misluk.
My naam nog meer verkeerd gespel,
meer Afrikaans, selfs meer verbaster.
Verder van sy wortels, nog verder in die toekoms.
Meer homself as wat enige een kon vermoed.
Die ‘es’ van die Franse Charles – soos in Charles Baudelaire
sal ek my verbeel,
nee, om presies te wees Charles Pierre Baudelaire –
was steeds soek en is nooit weer teruggesit nie.
My naam sou net Charl bly.
Eenvoudig, gesinkopeer.
Miskien het die akkedis geskrik en sy stert verloor,
wat toe deur ’n sangoma opgetel en gebottel is.
En die koppelteken van al daai vervelige ou Jean-Pierres,
die piepklein voeghoutjie gemaak om ’n klinker
aan sy opvolgende medeklinker te verbind, dié eindig in my naam.
Dit moes ’n aardbewerasie gewees het
wat die splinterhoutjies en die spaghetti-alfabette
oral in die land so opgeklits het
juis op die moment
toe my pa sy hand in die naamfles steek.  

Ja nee, dis nooit anders nie.
Dis presies wat gebeur het:
Dieselfde soort aardskudding het by geleentheid
ook ander belangrike name en gebeurtenisse deurmekaar geskommel.
Kyk wat dit gedoen het aan Genghis Garibaldi,
die man na wie Guy Fawkes vernoem is.    
Of die arme Hendrik VIII, ses keer onthoof
deur sy aaklige vrou omdat dit die eerste maal nie
en ook nie die tweede maal gewerk het nie, ensovoorts.
Of die Indiese keiser wat vir sy gestorwe vrou
daardie pragtige mausoleum, die Vatikaanstad, gebou het:
’n mens kan altyd die geslagsdele vertrou
om ’n asembenemende konstruksie op heilige water te laat dryf.
En moenie die Eerste Lateraanse Konsilie vergeet nie,
een van die somberste modeparades van aandrokke ooit
en heeltemal onbelangrik weens die selfontkenning
inherent aan dié bedryf,
waarna menige ongelukkige siel
ontdek het sy het die liggaam van ’n vrou.
Ek het nogal lig daarvan afgekom.

My naam is verkeerd gespel
maar op die regte manier.
Jy hoef dit net te vergelyk
met ander weergawes om te sien dis waar.
Die oorsprong daarvan lê nie
in die verlede nie, maar in die toekoms;
in ’n woordeboek wat nog dryf in die buiteruim,
sy thesaurus reg langsaan – volgens astronome.
’n Jan en ’n Jaap,
twee broedersterrestelsels,
twee drag queens:
’n meisie in dieselfde ontwerp geklee
maar vir ’n ander seisoen.

Die toekoms:
wortels wat in die lug rank;
my naam is ’n boom wat in die grond geduik het.

Daardie koppelteken sit nou
soos ’n pleister oor my neus.
Ek loop weer die kombuis binne.
Ek is ’n  klein seuntjie.
Na waar Mamma staan.
Waar sy steeds staan, in die herinnering.
Sy vryf die pleister sodat dit kleef.  
Dis ons twee se geheim.
Ons gee albei voor.
Ek het dit toe geniet,
waarom sou ek nie nou nie?

Ons glimlag vir mekaar,
my ma en ek.
Netnou, oor ’n rukkie
sal my pa by die huis wees.
Ek kan nie wag nie.
Hy sal langs my kom hurk,
sy mond tuit en versigtig
die strokie op my neus ondersoek.
Dan sal hy my vra wat verkeerd is.
Close

How I got my name

(or, A Concise History of Colonisation)


Giving a name to something
is to breath life into it.
Of all the ways animals procreate,
protect and survive communally,
a single member giving a name
to another is the thing
that changes the species forever.

Giving names
is the origin of humanity.
The beginning of Creation.
Why Darwin is wrong.
And the reason why his cat left.

The granting of names is also the reason
why God created Heaven and Earth within seven days.
Seven names in one family are more than enough.

Giving a name to another is an act of Love.
(A ruthless act of subjugation
too, which we’ll leave unprobed for now.)

My parents gave me a name
about which I have divided feelings.
My name sports a hyphen,
seeming no less divided about itself.

But one must treat one’s name with utmost care –
because it doesn’t belong to you.
It is a way in which other people express their love.

The name I have is a stem-with-leaves
plucked from the Huguenot diaspora bush
but the roots stayed behind, and the corolla too.

I was a few months old already,
the sickly captain of a waterlogged paper boat,
my feet struggling in their socks like red romans in a scoop,
when pa realised that my name
had been misspelt in the national register.  
There are differing accounts as to why those erstwhile refugees
from France forfeited their language so readily:
they were actually a Germanic tribe shod and bow-tied against their will
in a handyman language of the Devil toady to the Pope.
Or else, they were so anxious to learn the birdy language of heaven
that casting off earthly mumbo-jumbo was only a pleasure.
Scarcely had the road’s flurry of dust angels
laid down in their rest again when the old foot-sloggers
forgot how to spell their own names.
The new vineyard cannot be trusted.
Neither its goblet of Holy Communion.

But alas, my dad was an erudite man.
He would rectify the problem for ever.
The settlers of Africa always get things wrong.
But it is never too late too set the record straight.
So he got into his Willy’s Jeep to brave the hundred
or so kilometres to the main town of remote East Griqualand
where he was a doctor, through driving snow and rain
– where people paid him with chickens and eggs –
and got lost in the creeping mist, his limbs disappearing piece
by piece as the Jeep laboured through sludge, on a mythical journey.
The windscreen would clear under the wipers and the buried scape
would blink, and instantly disappear again under flung snow.
It was a question of correctness, of knowing thyself:
his son’s name must have the original spelling.
A wagon had crushed half of it, another part was just gone.
That wasn’t good enough. It was time for the record.
No half-baked name for his boy. Time for memory.
For love. My father was a very sweet man.

But the attempt failed.
Again the name miscarriaged;
more South African now, pidginised even more.
Further away from its roots, more in the future.
More itself than anyone could imagine.
The ‘es’ of  the French Charles, as in Charles Baudelaire
(I’ll fancy myself )
no, more precisely Charles Pierre Baudelaire,
was as gone as ever, and never retrieved.
My name remained Charl.
Simply syncopated.
Maybe the lizard had got a fright, and lost its tail,
which then was bottled by a sangoma.
And the hyphen of all those boring Jean-Pierres,
a splinter-insert for joining a vowel
to its follow-up consonant, ended in my name.
It must have been an earthquake that shook up
the splinters and the spaghetti alphabets
everywhere at that moment exactly, when my dad
stuck his hand in the name jar.

Yip, that is what happened.
That same earth tremor also jumbled
some other very important names and events.
Look what it did to Genghis Garibaldi,
the man after whom Guy Fawkes is named.
Or poor Henry VIII, beheaded six times
by his awful wife because it didn’t work
the first time, neither the second, and so forth.
And the Indian emperor who built
that beautiful mausoleum, the Vatican, for his dead wife –
one can always trust the genitals to float
a breathtaking construction on holy water.
And don’t forget the First Lateran Council,
one of the most sombre fashion parades of evening gowns ever
and entirely negligible due to that self-denial
inherent to such business,
whereafter a lot of unhappy souls
discovered they had female bodies.
I got off lightly.

My name is spelt wrong
but in the right way.
You only have to compare it
to other versions, to see this is true.
Its origin lies
not in the past but in the future,
in a dictionary still drifting in space,
its thesaurus hovering right next to it,
according to astronomers.
A John and a Jack;
two brother galaxies,
two drag queens:
a girl dressed in the same design
but for a different season.

The future:
roots spreading in the air;
my name is a tree that dived into the earth.

And I sport my hyphen
like a plaster on my nose.
I walk into the kitchen again.
I am a little boy.
To where mom stands.
To where she still stands, in my memory.
She rubs on the plaster to secure it.
This is our secret.
We pretend together.
I loved it then, why wouldn’t
I love it now?

We smile at each other,
my mom and I.
In a while, just now,
my dad will be back.
I can’t wait.
He’ll crouch next to me,
pout his lips intently
and carefully examine the strip on my nose.
Then he will ask me what is wrong.

How I got my name

(or, A Concise History of Colonisation)


Giving a name to something
is to breath life into it.
Of all the ways animals procreate,
protect and survive communally,
a single member giving a name
to another is the thing
that changes the species forever.

Giving names
is the origin of humanity.
The beginning of Creation.
Why Darwin is wrong.
And the reason why his cat left.

The granting of names is also the reason
why God created Heaven and Earth within seven days.
Seven names in one family are more than enough.

Giving a name to another is an act of Love.
(A ruthless act of subjugation
too, which we’ll leave unprobed for now.)

My parents gave me a name
about which I have divided feelings.
My name sports a hyphen,
seeming no less divided about itself.

But one must treat one’s name with utmost care –
because it doesn’t belong to you.
It is a way in which other people express their love.

The name I have is a stem-with-leaves
plucked from the Huguenot diaspora bush
but the roots stayed behind, and the corolla too.

I was a few months old already,
the sickly captain of a waterlogged paper boat,
my feet struggling in their socks like red romans in a scoop,
when pa realised that my name
had been misspelt in the national register.  
There are differing accounts as to why those erstwhile refugees
from France forfeited their language so readily:
they were actually a Germanic tribe shod and bow-tied against their will
in a handyman language of the Devil toady to the Pope.
Or else, they were so anxious to learn the birdy language of heaven
that casting off earthly mumbo-jumbo was only a pleasure.
Scarcely had the road’s flurry of dust angels
laid down in their rest again when the old foot-sloggers
forgot how to spell their own names.
The new vineyard cannot be trusted.
Neither its goblet of Holy Communion.

But alas, my dad was an erudite man.
He would rectify the problem for ever.
The settlers of Africa always get things wrong.
But it is never too late too set the record straight.
So he got into his Willy’s Jeep to brave the hundred
or so kilometres to the main town of remote East Griqualand
where he was a doctor, through driving snow and rain
– where people paid him with chickens and eggs –
and got lost in the creeping mist, his limbs disappearing piece
by piece as the Jeep laboured through sludge, on a mythical journey.
The windscreen would clear under the wipers and the buried scape
would blink, and instantly disappear again under flung snow.
It was a question of correctness, of knowing thyself:
his son’s name must have the original spelling.
A wagon had crushed half of it, another part was just gone.
That wasn’t good enough. It was time for the record.
No half-baked name for his boy. Time for memory.
For love. My father was a very sweet man.

But the attempt failed.
Again the name miscarriaged;
more South African now, pidginised even more.
Further away from its roots, more in the future.
More itself than anyone could imagine.
The ‘es’ of  the French Charles, as in Charles Baudelaire
(I’ll fancy myself )
no, more precisely Charles Pierre Baudelaire,
was as gone as ever, and never retrieved.
My name remained Charl.
Simply syncopated.
Maybe the lizard had got a fright, and lost its tail,
which then was bottled by a sangoma.
And the hyphen of all those boring Jean-Pierres,
a splinter-insert for joining a vowel
to its follow-up consonant, ended in my name.
It must have been an earthquake that shook up
the splinters and the spaghetti alphabets
everywhere at that moment exactly, when my dad
stuck his hand in the name jar.

Yip, that is what happened.
That same earth tremor also jumbled
some other very important names and events.
Look what it did to Genghis Garibaldi,
the man after whom Guy Fawkes is named.
Or poor Henry VIII, beheaded six times
by his awful wife because it didn’t work
the first time, neither the second, and so forth.
And the Indian emperor who built
that beautiful mausoleum, the Vatican, for his dead wife –
one can always trust the genitals to float
a breathtaking construction on holy water.
And don’t forget the First Lateran Council,
one of the most sombre fashion parades of evening gowns ever
and entirely negligible due to that self-denial
inherent to such business,
whereafter a lot of unhappy souls
discovered they had female bodies.
I got off lightly.

My name is spelt wrong
but in the right way.
You only have to compare it
to other versions, to see this is true.
Its origin lies
not in the past but in the future,
in a dictionary still drifting in space,
its thesaurus hovering right next to it,
according to astronomers.
A John and a Jack;
two brother galaxies,
two drag queens:
a girl dressed in the same design
but for a different season.

The future:
roots spreading in the air;
my name is a tree that dived into the earth.

And I sport my hyphen
like a plaster on my nose.
I walk into the kitchen again.
I am a little boy.
To where mom stands.
To where she still stands, in my memory.
She rubs on the plaster to secure it.
This is our secret.
We pretend together.
I loved it then, why wouldn’t
I love it now?

We smile at each other,
my mom and I.
In a while, just now,
my dad will be back.
I can’t wait.
He’ll crouch next to me,
pout his lips intently
and carefully examine the strip on my nose.
Then he will ask me what is wrong.
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