Krotoa, Walking Between Worlds by Frank Meintjies

Frank Meintjies | November 5th, 2015 | poetry | No Comments


you walk, between
the worlds
we follow those steps
the seashores, robben island, the open plains
the interstices between death & vitality

the narrow path between my song & dance

you, a linguist of note
speak to us!
interpret, read the signs
make a song from the symbols
that dot these walls
for we are so often lost, adrift
bobbing uneasily
between the veils of translation

she works the words
from the belly upwards
through tongue & breath & spaces of the skull
word by word
she weights up
the men who stand before her
the words work & rework her
she invests them with breath
from worlds within
she rolls them on her tongue
she births them
in cool dank air
or sunshine

diplomat, broker, interloper

the vine joining ground & air

who will translate for us
the sea’s utterances
the wind’s murmurs
the look of the kori bustard
the small fire’s whoosh & crackle
from the entrails of wet sticks
the line of the pass
that bends through my mountain thoughts
& pieces of land
that stand solid
as we migrate from outposts & peripheries
to teeming centres
via farmers’ markets & trading posts

weaver of strands

hold us, your children
in your imagination
send us braided messages
send love & affection & chants
& sighs of longing

those feet walked
the hard life
doubted here (at the kraal), mistrusted there (at the fort)
inspected, suspected
suspended in other’s dreams
you dreamt of wanderings & walkabouts
as you donned the garb, buttoned up
stood in thin shade
cast by
the houses of colonialism

van riebeeck’s orders
van meerhof’s manners
wagenaer’s scolding glare
as you swigged wine & laughed out loud
at his dinner table
the tight fitting name: ‘eva’
the clamps & constraints
that flowed
from their pens
as they counted you & logged you
in diaries & registers

in your death
you – & we with you – escape this
we walk among shrubs, grow into trees, embrace wind
we flow with the pain
we walk the shoreline

the single mother
the abandoned partner
the searcher for meaning, in multiples abuses
searching for some truth
of a life in the margins
the lichen that stays
on rock
even as the tide retreats

you stand with us
renditioned, trafficked, exiled
simply ignored
or made to labour for bread & tots
when we are made to trade
cattle for goods
you walk alongside
the uncertain returnee
the desperate ones who come through beit bridge
those stolen from africa
the children plucked & taken thousands of miles

me, extrapolated & replanted in strange settings

in your death
an astuteness, in your silence
a voice
through your death
mishak can be swathed
in the eye
of the moment
jemma can wander the sky
cole can lope through landscapes
that existed in the time before time

when we toil away, or measure hours, offer silent service
under the lash of the sun
when we
bear the unbearable
when we are overwhelmed
and fizzle out, succumbing
to nervous conditions
when depression
crawls over skin
like a shadow
may we think of you

may we think of the mopani tree, the boegoe plant
the needles of the rooibos
the aloe & its healing bitterness
the acacia’s thorn
used for stitching
& you … a sturdy bough

Poet Bio

Frank Meintjies lives and works in Johannesburg. He has published poems in anthologies and frequently participates in public readings.

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