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De Waal Venter

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Four-part poem

 

Life is a beach

 

I smoke the flavour

of coffee.

It changes my mind

to a small trattoria

in Rome

before the Wall came down.

 

I smoke it

in the Karoo;

the silence kneels on its knees

and shows me

the sheep rib

disintegrating into a murky white.

 

Coffee, the flavour

I inhale

and feel my beloved’s hand

resting on my neck

as we drive towards the sea;

the waves doing unknown things,

but when we get there

they will prance

and brag that nothing will break them;

but they all break,

we all reach as far as we can

upon the immaculate law

of the shining beach, then we become it.

 

II

 

Taking sides

 

I smoke the flavour

of coffee.

It changes my mind

to a small trattoria

in Rome

before the Wall came down.

 

It cut through the land

hiding children’s faces

from their parents.

It bred a sullen, severed nation,

without a history

without hope of a future.

 

Two German men sat down at a table.

They were joined by an older woman.

They possessed their side of Germany,

and themselves,

they ordered coffee,

the flavour hurt me -

on the east side of the Wall

the shadow was rushing forward

like a panzer blitzkrieg.

 

III

 

My time is cracked

 

 

I smoke the flavour

of coffee.

I smoke it

in the Karoo;

the silence kneels on its knees

and shows me

the sheep rib

disintegrating into a murky white.

 

In the morning

I hear the sun

rushing towards the horizon

like fast approaching rain;

coffee

the favour saddens me

with joy –

the stone almost cracked in two

lies there under the hard feet

of the sun.

I will never touch it.

 

IV

 

The immaculate law

 

I smoke the flavour

of coffee.

It changes my mind

to our drive towards the sea;

the waves doing unknown things

far out of the reach of land;

they swell and roll,

flecked by streaks of foam;

no-one sees them,

perhaps they sing a gigantic chorus

but nobody hears them;

they emerge from themselves

and subside into each other

closer and closer to the land,

and when they get there

they prance and brag

that nothing will break them;

but they all break,

we all reach as far as we can

upon the immaculate law

of the shining beach, then we become it.

 


Read more poems here

 

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