Love and the Sea
These poems are about looking for someone to love and for someone who will love you. It’s about the first disappointments, the loneliness and the cautious optimism. It’s about the happiness when it works out and you have each other. It’s about building a new life together, and growing old together. And of course, it’s about the sea.
The first half of the book consists of poems written by me, about us in South Africa, before we emigrated to Canada. Many of them were written when I was at university, and so the forms (rhyme scheme, meter, stanzas and so on) are formal and quite old-school and perhaps a bit forced. The poems are in English and Afrikaans.
- City Pad
- Die Seevaarder | Landlocked Seafarer (translation/reinterpretation)
- Stella Ignatius
- Michael op die Strand | Michael on the Beach (translation)
- Some Sort of Sonnet
- Voor Ons Weggaan | Before Going Abroad (translation)
City Pad Number six, three storeys up, sometimes hot, or too cold, but always crowded, even with three beds, bath and kitchen. Home, regardless of discomfort, a refuge, with CDs bought - Chopin, Springsteen. Pizza smells from the street below, jazz, a cacophony of voices from outside, city lights reflected in windows open wide.
Parentheses Go to her at then, if you must At night (when no-one is looking) And I (breathless from my galloping heartbeat) Lie (fatalistic and dry-eyed) listening How you (after you said you wouldn't) Lock the doors, tap-tap to the elevator, drive away. This morning, before work, you and her (replete like cats half-drowned in fish and lickings) Come back home with a cheery "good morning!" (Looking me squarely in the eyes) While drawing your little talons sweetly along my calves As I sit (pinned) in the lounge chair, And then walk (wincing) into the coffee table.
Co-habitation Guard vigilantly against: Hair in the bath, particularly your own Drips on the toilet seat Underwear and unmentionables left lying around Inconsiderately not washing up. The unspoken rule: Do not involuntarily let him know that you're in love with him. Keep the front door, and your heart, bolted shut.
Clarity When I was a child, sleeping the footsteps in my ear were merely my heart beating, no killers in the passage, no fear. But I preferred the light. Now the bright reality of every day makes clear that which I must, but which I do not want to see or hear. I prefer the night.
Stella Ignatius I have charts in a safe, testimony that I loved you enough to give a star your name: Ignatius. So small and far away, it's dead by now. Its twinkle a mere ghost, an echo from distant galaxies. As are we, now, and our love.
(Some Sort Of) Sonnet Leonardo da Vinci, the Florentine, in the delicate new portraiture style sketches on canvas, catches a moment, and draws a subtle Gioconda smile. Lines painted lissom and cantabile, allow the warm and tender light to play upon his eyes, coloured deepest umber, like pebbles that in the Arno slumber. The fields behind the sitter blur away to the silhouette of a city state - Florence seen on a timeless, azure day. But if he were here, the Maestro might say, all of his talents and palette ornate can't do you justice on this perfect day.
(Above) A Classical Italian sonnet has to have two quatrains (four lines each), and two triplets (three lines each), and the rhyme scheme has to be ABBA CDDC EFG EFG. Each line has to have ten syllables. Both the Italian and Renaissance (Shakespearian) sonnet, was typically written in iambic pentameter, which uses five pairs of syllables, or five “feet”, per line, therefore ten syllables in all per line. The rhythm of the line was: da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM – every second syllable was emphasized. Because my Italian sonnet does not have perfect form, I call it “some sort of” a sonnet.
Shells On the bathroom tile beach lies a creamy Mozambican cowrie. Inside, a grain of sand and the faintest sound of waves, from Vilanculos of the palms and the mangroves and the soughing, emerald sea. In your ear curls, sighs and nestles a whisper.
Extract from The Seafarer, by Ezra Pound
Translated into Afrikaans by M. Bijman
Die Seevaarder Sneeu uit die noorde, skadus uit die nag, die aarde was geharper deur hael en geransel deur ryp, koudste koring. Nou, en daarom, hunker my tedere hart na die diepe strome, die sout see se slag. Gedurig begeer my siel om seil te span, soekend na ander vreemdes se vestings, vêr van hier. Daar is geen man op aarde so trots, so gul in sy gawes, so moedig in sy gemeenskap, so groots in sy goedhartigheid, of so dierbaar vir die Heer, dat geen las hom belaai voor sy reis oor God se wil met hom nie.
Landlocked Seafarer (after The Seafarer, by Ezra Pound) Clouds drop down over Table Mountain in grey sheaths, rain dashes the cold harbour water hard into choppy waves, yachts bounce up and down, scraping at their moorings - excitable dogs yanking their leashes, eager to stick their prows into the chilly, tangy air, sails hoisted and stays snapping, singing with the wind. I yearn, tied up here in the flotsam of my desk berth and my life with its little eddies and currents, its refuse bobbing about, to be out there, seeing the mountain recede from out in the Atlantic.
Voor ons weggaan / Kyk My liefste, kyk wat gee ek vir jou: Die Kaap, in al sy stilte en mis-reën en groen lieflike hoekies waarop jy toevallig afkom wat maak dat jy stilstaan en snuif en aanraak En sy uitsigte van berg, rivier, wingerd en bos. Kyk waarnatoe neem ek jou: See-toe waar die lug sout and vars is en die drifsels strandgoed jou oog vang tussen die rotse, seevoëls, slakkies en krappe en die branders nog soos altyd skuimend inrol. Kyk wat ek vir jou wil wys: Hier is nog plekke, asembenemende plekke wat ek gehou het van my kleintyd af en wat nog daar is waar ek hulle gelos het terwyl ek gesoek het na jou. Die sjerrie-rivierwater, met kartelings lig Die eikeblare in die sonlig, die wolke sagkens om die berg, die singende see - hulle is my herinneringe. Dus, terwyl ek kan, terwyl hulle nog daar is:- Hier is my Kersfees-present vir jou, my liefste.
Michael Op Die Strand
Hier op die uitgespoelde strand,
Waar knipsels en breek-stukkies perlemoer
lok en flikker in die wit sand,
loop ek agter jou skadu aan soos 'n seevaarder
op soek na diepsee skatte op land.
En ek tel jou op en sit jou veilig
in my sak, my skat, my liefdespand.
Michael On the Beach Here on the washed-out strand Where chips of mother-of-pearl lure and twinkle in the white sand, I follow your shadow like a mariner searching for loot on land. And I pick you up, my treasure, my keepsake, safe in my hand.