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Gedicht

Robert Berold

TESTIMONY

TESTIMONY

TESTIMONY

for the children of the suburbs
with electrics and water
piped like music through the walls

for those children trapped
in hells of families
for those slapped into silence
swallowing volcanic screams

for mothers inadequate afraid
loving confusedly their human dolls
for fathers beyond reach
hacking furiously in the fields of the world

*

our 10-year-old bodies sprung with joy
squeezing through zoo railings
soccer in the open field by the birdcages
crowned cranes and marabous our spectators

the backyard where Mary lived
also a prisoner of dreams
in her room of paraffin and polish
bed raised on bricks above the floor

the thudding zulu-shouting
of the dustbin boys
our dog hurling himself
into the high wire fence to get to them

bat against ball, one bounce
ball against wall, one bounce
me counting, me counting
sotho hymns from the radio

*

outside it was a sunny afternoon
the droning voice of the commentator
the clapping, occasional shouts from the crowd

be one of us, they said,
and you\'ll inherit the earth:
career path straight as an airport runway

for me the labyrinth of dreams
december thick with longing
time growing lush like sugar-cane

the grey sky beckoned me
the earth opened her brown arms
swallows gathered for their long migration

*

many years spent
in the capillaries of prejudice
poisoned by lead   gold
swimming pool chlorine

saw dark shapes orbiting the houses
settling on someone in the family
who succumbed to madness or cancer
or passed it on to the next generation

the roar – the roar – was high
in the kloofs – the fiskaal
– the fiskaal – scattered song
the lizard ate giant insects from the sun!

*

the voice, a line of lightning
etching through a slate sky
blackening to charcoal

railway trucks, I hear them
lurching through the sourveld
mirage-tracks shimmering

and when it came it was
a voice not quite recordable
but speaking, in the pitch of syllables

*

my child called
catch me! catch me!
swung himself
high above the ground

narrow-winged swallows
send lightning round the tree
burn out
the rings of memory

*

woke up by the precast wall
the concrete silo
tallest building in the town

the paint was peeling
off the spare-shop sign
a humid cloud on the horizon

caught in the crossfire of another massacre
holding on to a small piece of my soul
what am I doing with my animal hands?

*

as I board the plane a river is carrying me
me and fallen trees towards an estuary

everything is water   my leg   my chest and arms
even my hand which holds this pen

only my head asks – what if it should fail?
the rest of me has already surrendered

*

where the oxalis hides
under streaked clouds
that\'s where to find you voice
silent one

where the herb smell
permeates your clothes
when the earth is bare
and nothing flows
that\'s when your voice calls
silent one

*

a vacuum passes over the land
obliterating memories and dreams
the leaders gather round their radioactive fires
the followers press their noses to the glass

the war of the have and have-nots has begun

*

goddess with white stones for eyes
you’re no accumulation of stone and soil
your body alive with living beings
your home bends downwards to an unknown sea

do you remember the sound of my lonely singing?
help me to your lost and retraced paths
in my tiredness I turn to you
I lean on you and look into your grey eyes
Robert Berold

Robert Berold

(Zuid-Afrika, 1948)

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TESTIMONY

for the children of the suburbs
with electrics and water
piped like music through the walls

for those children trapped
in hells of families
for those slapped into silence
swallowing volcanic screams

for mothers inadequate afraid
loving confusedly their human dolls
for fathers beyond reach
hacking furiously in the fields of the world

*

our 10-year-old bodies sprung with joy
squeezing through zoo railings
soccer in the open field by the birdcages
crowned cranes and marabous our spectators

the backyard where Mary lived
also a prisoner of dreams
in her room of paraffin and polish
bed raised on bricks above the floor

the thudding zulu-shouting
of the dustbin boys
our dog hurling himself
into the high wire fence to get to them

bat against ball, one bounce
ball against wall, one bounce
me counting, me counting
sotho hymns from the radio

*

outside it was a sunny afternoon
the droning voice of the commentator
the clapping, occasional shouts from the crowd

be one of us, they said,
and you\'ll inherit the earth:
career path straight as an airport runway

for me the labyrinth of dreams
december thick with longing
time growing lush like sugar-cane

the grey sky beckoned me
the earth opened her brown arms
swallows gathered for their long migration

*

many years spent
in the capillaries of prejudice
poisoned by lead   gold
swimming pool chlorine

saw dark shapes orbiting the houses
settling on someone in the family
who succumbed to madness or cancer
or passed it on to the next generation

the roar – the roar – was high
in the kloofs – the fiskaal
– the fiskaal – scattered song
the lizard ate giant insects from the sun!

*

the voice, a line of lightning
etching through a slate sky
blackening to charcoal

railway trucks, I hear them
lurching through the sourveld
mirage-tracks shimmering

and when it came it was
a voice not quite recordable
but speaking, in the pitch of syllables

*

my child called
catch me! catch me!
swung himself
high above the ground

narrow-winged swallows
send lightning round the tree
burn out
the rings of memory

*

woke up by the precast wall
the concrete silo
tallest building in the town

the paint was peeling
off the spare-shop sign
a humid cloud on the horizon

caught in the crossfire of another massacre
holding on to a small piece of my soul
what am I doing with my animal hands?

*

as I board the plane a river is carrying me
me and fallen trees towards an estuary

everything is water   my leg   my chest and arms
even my hand which holds this pen

only my head asks – what if it should fail?
the rest of me has already surrendered

*

where the oxalis hides
under streaked clouds
that\'s where to find you voice
silent one

where the herb smell
permeates your clothes
when the earth is bare
and nothing flows
that\'s when your voice calls
silent one

*

a vacuum passes over the land
obliterating memories and dreams
the leaders gather round their radioactive fires
the followers press their noses to the glass

the war of the have and have-nots has begun

*

goddess with white stones for eyes
you’re no accumulation of stone and soil
your body alive with living beings
your home bends downwards to an unknown sea

do you remember the sound of my lonely singing?
help me to your lost and retraced paths
in my tiredness I turn to you
I lean on you and look into your grey eyes

TESTIMONY

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Gemeente Rotterdam
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