Poetry is death cast out
though it gives one chance to retaliate,
Death takes it but the poem moves
a little further beyond death's gate,
and I know the proof of this. Once walking
amongst bushes and lizard stones I found
a little further than I had thought
to go, a stream with a singing sound.
(for The Truth and Reconciliation Commision)
because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within
it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat
in the cradle of my skull
it sings, it ignites
my tongue, my inner ear, the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals
of my soul the retina learns to expand
daily because by a thousand stories
I was scorched
a new skin.
I am changed for ever. I want to say:
You whom I have wronged, please
-Antjie Krog, Country of my Skull
With a billhook
Whose head was hand-forged and heavy
I was hacking a stalk
Thick as a telegraph pole.
My sleeves were rolled
And the air fanned cool past my arms
As I swung and buried the blade
Then laboured to work it unstuck.
The next stroke
Found a man's head under the hook.
Before I woke
I heard the steel stop
In the bone of the brow.
After the poem the coastline took
its place with a forward look
toughly disputing the right of the poem to possess it.
It was not a coast that couldn't yet be made
the subject of a poem don't mistake me
nothing to do with 'literary history'
But the coast flashed up - flashed, say, like objections
up to the rocky summit of the Sentinel
that sloped into the sea
such force in it that every line was broken
and the sea came by
the breaking sea came by