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Gedicht

Robert Berold

Journey

Journey

Journey

With my last strong self
I get on the rasping train
Algoa Express to Joburg,
wake up in Kroonstad
long weeds growing by the track
houses needing paint.
This could be the 1960s
heartbeats fettered and extinguished,
gardens clipped and neat, obsessiveness –
for the ones who kept their heads down.

Vanderbijlpark. People on their way to work.
Bakkies running parallel with the train.
Cosmos flowers pink and white
scattered with bright magenta.

*
I was waiting in starvation
and starvation found me.

If it were only you, you only,
I would wait for you under the eaves,
to fall like rain there.

I’m hanging in the sky.
My house is swept.

*

Hillbrow. Wanderers Street.
Taxi-blasted chickens stand in cages.
I was born here. Florence Nightingale Hospital.
It used to be a dreamy flatland of pensioners
and nurses. The city filled and emptied every day
as orchestrated by the law.

*
Across the valley
shadows of the morning sun.

You climb upon me
undulating, tidal pull –
a kiss comes from your womb
to touch my tongue.

*

Dan’s face full and crumpled, eyes
creased with old laughter. A truck going
somewhere. I am at Vonani’s, drinking tea,
loud traffic in the Polokwane streets.
Is there such a thing as too late?
I think I failed at many things.

*

The NorthLinks bus from Polokwane.
We pass the vendors of holy water
and a handwritten sign that reads
THE HALF-HUMAN RESTAURANT.

We stop in Bela Bela.
Bodies on the front page of The Star.
The Ellis Park stampede, the fans
crushed on the razor wire.

Transvaal Museum, Pretoria.
The fossils of pre-human skulls.
The Roberts Bird Book birds
all stuffed and numbered
standing in sequence in long glass cases.

Fossilised molluscs
200 million years old,
the swirl of our origins,
mud of where we came from,
two hours in a dream.

I have to tell you –
but from the public phone,
your answering machine.

*

6 a.m., near Kommadagga. Almost home.
The train is full. Everybody had a peaceful sleep.
The three guys who were sitting here last night
are having Black Labels for breakfast.

It’s been raining in the Eastern Cape.
The rock cuttings glisten in the mist.
Plants cling to the rockface. Acacias
by the track are white with thorns.
Robert Berold

Robert Berold

(Zuid-Afrika, 1948)

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Journey

With my last strong self
I get on the rasping train
Algoa Express to Joburg,
wake up in Kroonstad
long weeds growing by the track
houses needing paint.
This could be the 1960s
heartbeats fettered and extinguished,
gardens clipped and neat, obsessiveness –
for the ones who kept their heads down.

Vanderbijlpark. People on their way to work.
Bakkies running parallel with the train.
Cosmos flowers pink and white
scattered with bright magenta.

*
I was waiting in starvation
and starvation found me.

If it were only you, you only,
I would wait for you under the eaves,
to fall like rain there.

I’m hanging in the sky.
My house is swept.

*

Hillbrow. Wanderers Street.
Taxi-blasted chickens stand in cages.
I was born here. Florence Nightingale Hospital.
It used to be a dreamy flatland of pensioners
and nurses. The city filled and emptied every day
as orchestrated by the law.

*
Across the valley
shadows of the morning sun.

You climb upon me
undulating, tidal pull –
a kiss comes from your womb
to touch my tongue.

*

Dan’s face full and crumpled, eyes
creased with old laughter. A truck going
somewhere. I am at Vonani’s, drinking tea,
loud traffic in the Polokwane streets.
Is there such a thing as too late?
I think I failed at many things.

*

The NorthLinks bus from Polokwane.
We pass the vendors of holy water
and a handwritten sign that reads
THE HALF-HUMAN RESTAURANT.

We stop in Bela Bela.
Bodies on the front page of The Star.
The Ellis Park stampede, the fans
crushed on the razor wire.

Transvaal Museum, Pretoria.
The fossils of pre-human skulls.
The Roberts Bird Book birds
all stuffed and numbered
standing in sequence in long glass cases.

Fossilised molluscs
200 million years old,
the swirl of our origins,
mud of where we came from,
two hours in a dream.

I have to tell you –
but from the public phone,
your answering machine.

*

6 a.m., near Kommadagga. Almost home.
The train is full. Everybody had a peaceful sleep.
The three guys who were sitting here last night
are having Black Labels for breakfast.

It’s been raining in the Eastern Cape.
The rock cuttings glisten in the mist.
Plants cling to the rockface. Acacias
by the track are white with thorns.

Journey

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Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Lira fonds
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