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. They were first published under the title “Retrospective” on Blurb.com, in April 2010, and edited for this edition, Love and the Sea. The second half of the book are a series of 17 haikus written by M.F. O’Brien after our arrival in Canada.
My poems, in English and Afrikaans,with English translations, are:
- City pad
- Die Seevaarder | Landlocked seafarer
- Stella Ignatius
- Michael op die strand | Michael on the beach
- Some sort of sonnet
- Voor ons weggaan | Before going abroad
Here are a selection:
Number six, three storeys up,
sometimes hot, or too cold, but
always crowded, even
with 3 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.
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.
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,
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.
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, the Florentine
In the delicate new style
Sketches upon canvas
Draws a Giaconda smile.
Cantabile and lissome strokes
A gentleman of grace evoke
Eyes bright in the well-shaped head
Wet pebbles from the Arno’s bed.
The fields behind him stretch away
To silhouettes of hills and peaks,
Florence on an azure day.
The finest artist he may be
But there’s no-one who can capture
Your smile meant just for me.
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
The Seafarer (Extract), by Ezra Pound
Translated by M. Bijman:
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’s wil met hom nie.
(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.
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 dryfselfs 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 is, daar 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.
So, 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.
Back to the list of books of poetry by a Bear of Little Brain.