August 22, 2019

Every day I treat you as If you are mine

By Antjie Krog

When one crosses the equator everything becomes wilderness:
White becomes black, good becomes bad, culture becomes
A land of barbarism in which nothing has a name:
Women throw a tit over the shoulder
Cannibals, winged lions, vulvas hanging down to the knees
Barking one-eyed people and snakes standing upright in trees.

Nobody will ever believe our relief when, one morning, we saw this
Table – something simply so miraculously ordinary’ in the wilderness
– something so civilised one at last could pin a memory there.
That’s why, when we named it, we didn’t want to honour any
God or king, but simply threw’ a moerse party
On the southern tip and baptised it Table Mountain

Because I had named you
I let you now rise somewhat higher in my engraving –
Up – like a real table. So that with you as backdrop we could throw
Our arms northward, we could stylise your skyline against the wilderness
And, as famous logo, bring you home
– we learnt quickly how the crumbs can fall from tables.

Neatly I draw your tabletop – nothing will hang skew.
To the side of the bay I put those who we say call themselves Hottentots.
They eat raw' intestines and look! to have his cow give milk, this man
Blows into her bloody cunt. One has to know’ one’s bearings, or what do
I say! To turn you into legend against the wilderness I move you slightly more to the front –
that’s it, your feet closer to shore

Windeberg and Leeukop, listen closely – throw your arms open
As if to embrace. To me it looks, and forgive me if I overestimate
Your reaching out, as if you and this continent groaneth and
Travaileth in pain until you could be delivered into glorious liberty’
By the children of God. Every piece of property I will number and name
As it rises stepwise against your slopes –
Say what you want, but we did bring so much order to this place

Excerpted from Body Bereft, a collection of poems by Antjie Krog, the South African radio
journalist, essayist, poet and Literary scholar. Body Bereft was published by Umuzi, an
imprint of Random House, in 2006.


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