13 November 2014, 11:20 am


Millions murmuring
at the foot of the mountain
sand in the teeth
heads weeping
in the heart foreboding

the hosannas
like wind whipping at the robes
at the sheep
goats of bone and skin
uddesr shriveled like a gnarl of wood
under which the asp

the children, the children
wait can’t wait
for adulthood
for the strength

to hold a weapon of God
a scythe
a pike

the screaming wind hosannas
and the burning tribulation of the bombs

sanctify, oh sanctify
for Zion our battleships
our jets that bring forth righteousness

sanctify for us our science
of war
of precsion bombs

guide our drones to trespass
even as no one trspasses against us

break on the rack for us
the wretch
who dare speak his name
who cry for bread
in the name of Gof

the same true one god one love god
of difference and indifference

as the rivers run dry
the sea, the sea withdraws
its manifold blessings
and also its curse
that brought me to these shores

count now the men, the warriors
who grapple with the idea
then fall to violence for God
who will raze the cities
rape the women
smash the children

scar the earth with incendiary will

hunt their inner chimerical mosntrs
until the animals disappear

count now the bison, the whale
count lion and tiger
the birds of the air
count all these
count the rhinoceros, if it still lives

multiply by curses
by praise song
the earnest hosannas
entreaties that this time God
my God
we vanquish the other God

then divide, divide and subtract
subtract and remainder
the weeping the wailing the gnashing of teeth
the lamentations of the lamentations

from the slave-ship’s hold
from the ovens of Auschwitz
from the children’s workhouse
from the steppes of Russia, the plains of the Americas,
the man on the rack in holy inquisition
the woman stoned

for the sanctifying fire in her loins

remainder the lamentations
the lamentations of the lamentations

of every kafir black nigger jew and his slant-eyed twin
enslaved by arab white man an other slant-eyed twin
burned hanged and hacked to death
who in turn revolts in kind
enslaving burning hanging and hacking
his other other his own himself

swallowing his own
in the shine of the erect self collapsing within.


11 November 2014, 3:03 pm


Are we there yet?

The udst, the lizards
the wind, the gizzards

the thirst, the wizards

Adnoai, Yhwaeh, Lahah
God of mercy and of war

of vapours and bloodsand
brimsten, crimston, more sand

but ahead, blessed Carland
here the gears grinding
and the blessed oil
the industry of an ointment

the black blood

soon will come the hard ship

the fouled fowls

look how they melt away
a treasure of babubles
caught forever
in the monasteryries

the flying buttrixes
of their ribs
gizzards overwhelmed

feathers mere stains
mere memory

Kill it! Kill it the mere bird
o ancient one
o ancient wise one
kill it

let that bird not trouble you

it mocks the living god


Night falls
forced to camp
fire from tendrils
the bread
abrasive with sand
heavy, unleavened as death

(off-set, the sameras whir)

we have come to the edge of the desert

tomorrow we fall on the land

uproot the olive tree

wipe from earth all memory

we have come to the egde of the desert

of the dead bird
of the thristy snake

of the fish that walk the earth
until their gills dry
and they fall

of all who had to crawl
from the burning seas
to burn on land

to burn in its human-made wastes

Son of man
we have come to the egde of the desert
your tree is a husk
running with termites

Maria crumbles from the nose down
at Notre Dame, in Rome
on Liberty Island

Mecca is a pleasure dome

and God is still dead
shot by Charlton Heston

so these are not his tsars
but still-born the ever-immaculate
cantankering chaos locustering
horsemendering luciferous voices

beyond the tendrils of light
from our small fires

the drak no telescope can breach

we turn and turn the dial
download only fragments

reheated, globular
grinding desperate
mandalas from Mandelas

the desrt grows beneath our feet

but here, sit, eat with us, drink,
see that you spill not the oil

tomorrow is a patriarch
lapping at rot
dancing with ergot, ant’s fire
visions of a newfound canard:

we leave the desert for another

download only fragments
the hollow ring of faith

six thousand megabytes from now
we will be in Carland
on ambient grounds
destroying walls, building new ones


10 November 2014, 8:43 am


Colkie McCulklen is dead
and the princss
see them move on the darkness
of the waters and the earth
the face of Charles Bronson in other words,
and Pacino the mohterfucker,
alas, alos dead.
Mr Brond and that guy in the red car,
and Jason Bored, the X-mint
and –womint, theyr ALL DEAD.

I remember Jane Seymour

in the formless voidacom.

Roudn of APPLAUSE. Thank you.

Eastwood sits on a chair, they clap.

He talks to the chair
but it don’t listen to him.

Thank you.

The stars are reams.

Hoffman is walking there, he’s walking there.
Gunnerman is gone.

The tsars are reams. Some
overdose, shoot up horse,
too much horse,
liquor the vicar, the priests
the girls, the boys molested:
catholics and imams, rabbis amd gurus
the sheiks of oil, of all, of old
of puppetry, colonial sahabi
ya habibi
and then the wahabi

theyr dead, all dead

reams of infamy

Bush, Obama, the whole dice dead,
Hillary gored
Bin Laden the seasoick
the US blergh

That Williams gut, bless his soul.
Hollywood got him, dead.

Bridges of bloody stone country.
(old reference, I have often noticed)

Look, ther they lie (or is it lay)
lifeless, broken on the riverbed.

We gawk at zombies.

Run, I say, run! Run, run, run!

But tomorroe, tomorrow
we’ll re-run with euphemism
terrorism vampirism liquid jism
put it in your foxcroft aphorism

(Turn around)
every now and then
I get nervous
that the best gears have all gone by

(Turn around)
Every now and then
I get terrified
But then I see the book in your eyes

and it solves nothing
not hunger nor truant artists
racists, anti-racists, non-
and multi-bloody-fuck-you-racists
poverty, the dread disease
the cabal of brouhaha
the ego of Cock, Dick & Penis Incorporated
the silent, dumb mass of you zombies
the arse-bend of Spidergrawl

the confunction of the bloggerbies:

Mistah Kurtz, the un-dead.

Marlow he solves not murder,
the crimbling stories
of the apiarists,
the ape-men, the old movies
re-done for tuppence
if I may speak colonial

May I?

Graceful. Magnanimous of you
that I can use these words
and be free
of white-wash-ionside-coconutism
and all my spelling blerrors

I am allowed?

Than you, than uou.

Now it divides
form from chaos
light from dark
and the cables are laid

and the internet buzzes
into life
and it saw that all was good

The wind in the morning

13 August 2014, 10:07 am

The wind in the morning

The man wakes from dream
to nightmare,
his night-aged knees
over rubble
outside when he emerges
from the black mouth of his house

its burnt shell a meagre shelter
from the wind
now tugging at a loose something
and the blight it brings
like a scythe through the valleys.

Let the sun rise if it must.
Let it burn through the wind.
Let it dry them eventual white
and broken as the earth –
his neighbours the two lovers

charred in copulation
on the blackened bed
as if they unleashed the starbursts
of the bombs,
that burning burning out their love.

What’s left are the wind-worn harvests:
the neighbours’ ache,
friends’ unanswered calls,
a mother who cries,
who wanders
until death
among the millions of the unconsoled.

We who also wake
but turn away cowed, unshamed,
we whisper only to each other
of the murdered and the maimed:
single, multiple, mass –
the killing fields the index of our regress
back from Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Self-portrait in blue

7 May 2014, 1:04 pm

Self-portrait in blue


When you look sometimes,
when you don’t mean to see,
but on a turn
from reaching for something else –
analgesics or the shaving brush –
you catch

the fugitive blur in the mirror

where should have been
someone like you,
bagged eyes, heavier jowl,
that pull of the mouth -
what you’d rather not see

or taste again:
the bitter, repetitive defeats
of a country where death is king,
all proudly trapped still
in the chauvinist isolations
of the past, or cocooned
in barren superstitions
that yet grow and multiply;

the poets, past comrades
who jump and prance
to render their rhymes to power
the venal rottage in the veins,
tendering mouths agape in metastasis,
lips glistening
with fat from the banquet

or who wander distracted
in every valley or hollow-treed glen,
mimics of empire
in the quiet, restful corruptions
of self-scrutiny.

So you turn rather away
from the indictments of the mirror,
focus not on the burdens
of this historical self.
Look less, see less.
Say less and settle back
through the self’s wordless fog
into the dull stasis of anodynes.

Derek Walcott – Eulogy to W.H. Auden

11 February 2014, 7:29 am

Eulogy to W.H. Auden

(Read at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine,
New York, October 17, 1983)


Assuredly, that fissured face
is wincing deeply, and must loathe
our solemn rubbish,
frown on our canonizing farce
as self-enhancing, in lines both
devout and snobbish.

Yet it may spare us who convene
against its wish in varnished pews
this autumn evening;
as maps remember countries, mien
defines a man, and his appears
at our beseeching.

Each granite feature, cracked and plain
as the ground in Giotto, is
apt to this chancel,
the wry mouth bracketed with pain,
the lizard eye whose motto is:
Opposites cancel.

For further voices will delight
in all that left the body of
the mortal Auden
centuries after candlelit
Kirchstetten freed its tenant of
Time and its burden;

for what we cherish is as much
our own fate, stricken with the light
of his strange calling,
and, once we leave this darkened church
and stand on pavements in the night
to see a falling

leaf like a seraph sign the arc
made by a streetlamp, and move on
to selfish futures,
our footsteps echoing in the dark
street have, for their companion,
his shadow with us.

Autumn is when small wars begin
drunken offensives; the skies spin
with reeling scanners;
but you, who left each feast at nine,
knew war, like free verse, is a sign
of awful manners.

Tonight, as every dish deploys
from sonar peaks its amplified
fireside oration,
we keep yours to ourselves, a voice
internal, intricately wired
as our salvation.


In your flat world of silence
the fissures made by speech
close. A sandpiper signs
the margin of the beach.

Soon, from whistling tundras,
geese following earth’s arc
will find an accurate Indies
in the lime-scented dark.

Our conjugations, Master,
are still based on the beat
of wings that gave their cast to
our cuneiform alphabet,

though shredders hum with rage through
the neon afternoon,
and dials guide earth’s marriage
to an irascible moon;

not needling Arcturus,
nor Saturn’s visible hum
have, on their disks, a chorus
of epithalamium;

the farther the space station
from the Newtonian self,
the more man’s conversation
increases with himself.

Once, past a wooden vestry,
down still colonial streets,
the hoisted chords of Wesley
were strong as miners’ throats;

in treachery and in union,
despite your Empire’s wrong,
I made my first communion
there, with the English tongue.

It was such dispossession
that made possession joy,
when, strict as Psalm or Lesson,
I learnt your poetry.


Twilight. Grey pigeons batten
on St. Mark’s slate. A face
startles us with its pattern
of sunlit fire escapes.

Your slippered shadow pities
the railings where it moves,
brightening with Nunc Dimittis
the city it still loves.

O craft, that strangely chooses
one mouth to speak for all,
O Light no dark refuses,
O Space impenetrable,

fix, among constellations,
the spark we honour here,
whose planetary patience
repeats this earthly prayer

that the City may be Just,
and humankind be kind.
A barge moves, caked with rust
in the East River wind,

and the mouths of all the rivers
are still, and the estuaries
shine with the wake that gives the
craftsman the gift of peace.

(from Derek Walcott, The Arkansas Testament, Faber&Faber, 1987, 1988)

A Manuscript belonging to a girl whose body tasted so sweet – Aslan Abidin

5 February 2014, 7:52 pm

A MANUSCRIPT BELONGING TO A GIRL WHOSE BODY TASTED SO SWEET – Aslan Abidin (transl. from Indonesian by Mikael Johani)

—circa 1789
what could be crueler than our own beaches?
they ran many ships aground, stuffed with
colonialists, missionaries and rats.

—they once greeted speelman* and
palakka** who came to destroy
the kingdoms of gowa and tallo.—***

i remembered this
beach, which has never ceased to
produce traitors. i was born
on the sand of this beach
that night, before i said:
“your body is as sweet as aren juice.”#

i got drunk on your body,
i could not find my way home.

“it destroyed me, trying not to remember you,”
you said one morning, as you were packing to leave.

—dutch flotillas came
to take away slaves, to sell them
alongside pigs at the cape of good hope.—

then foot soldiers brought you to baron
van reede tot de parkelaar, exiled ##
far away at the palace of the surakarta sunan.###
the senior resident loved to read the bible
while you sucked him off.

what could be crueler than our own beaches?
these ports have destroyed our bay
these ports have forced us to say too many goodbyes
these ports have shed many tears.
“it destroys me, trying to forget you,”
you said, as if suffering can have an end.

Makassar, 2008-2010

* Cornelis Speelman, governor of colonial Dutch East Indies, 1681-1684
** Arung Palakka, Speelman’s Buginese ally.
*** Gowa, Tallo: places in Southwestern Sulawesi (formerly known as Celebes), where Makassar is situated. The rebel, Sheikh Yusuf, as well as many slaves were brought from there to the Cape, thus Macassar in the Cape, where Yusuf was buried.
# aren – feathered palm
## Van Reede tot de Parkeler – Dutch colonial merchant
### Surakarta Sunan – Sunan = ruler

Poem taken from What’s Poetry – Antologi Puisi, Henk Publica 2012, pp.240-241

October, Java

19 January 2014, 11:56 am

October, Java

The buzz of scooters die down
past the bamboo compound
revamped for tourists
tramping to and from an ancient temple.

Fresh and flushed by showers,
groups and couples compare their pics
and laugh and cluck, and muse
at what they can only describe
as the riches of the land:

the rice, the strange fruit,
the smiling waiters
and the call to evening prayer
hardly heard above the rain
rushing from the eaves and gutters,
roaring in the ears and in the head.

The rain stops as it started, sudden.
A moment’s hush
then the click of knives on bone and plate
and the global benefits
of American, English, Dutch.

Under the grinning moon
the river runs by silently, runs
mercurial by bridge and bamboo,
by crabs sidling like henchmen
past the tourist’s dream,
through the sleep of history.

The foreigners will cluck and leave,
heaving bolts of batik and temple curios
wrapped like careful metaphors
for their inner peace
bought with rijksdaalders, pounds, murderous dollars.

Only the sun tomorrow will cast its eye
on river-rock brown like fingers
clawing at the shore;
on a tree stump stuck in the stream
like a torso shorn of limbs,
streaking red, its banners long washed out to sea;

Only the sun will raise its weary eye
on the gecko fled from the burning walls,
its tail left twisting in wordless testimony;
on gods in flames,
their ashes falling on the killing fields.

The gods of war

31 August 2013, 8:24 am

The gods of war

SistersbyHomsi LensPhotograph of two sisters in Homs, by “Young Homsi Lens“, 6 October 2012.*


Your gods are long all now dead,
only a white dread of sea noise,
grey hair like a cloth of stars
in their slowest motion out there in the night sky
or a cloud of frogspawn, only now
dark tadpoles for the dark stars,
a flicker of dark frequencies from the mud.

Dig deeper and it is darker still,
slime, rock
some force,
a monstrous noise
rushing in the head and ears,
the noise from which we come
the anti-matter of our gods.

We made them, they made us;
we made them then tell us
we thirst for nothing
blood and oil
and the crushing of people who have nothing
save some idea of god

a god they hope, believe, is on their side
if only he would help
every time they pull a trigger.
But all gods are dead
have died a billion times,
dead dead dead all through millennia.


But they might believe,
the smiling children –
two sisters somewhere in Syria –
may still believe in a god.

Look at their smiles
that crop the war from the picture,
that tries make god anew
who yet watches, off-frame,
an oilman check his shares
an arms executive drive his child to school
a ruler worry about how he looks on Facebook.

And also off-frame,
perhaps some blocks away,
a fighter for his god of freedom
rots already.
In another town not far perhaps,
already a tank rolls slow and unheard
over a dead child,
the commander obeying orders
only from Mammon.

Perhaps the older sister knows
already that a god may die.

A brother or uncle has told her
and gave as holy gift
the bullet she now wears as pendant.

When she sees a parent or a sibling
smeared on tarmac by a bomb
she’ll be told all along
when god was mocking her,
it was a test,
that a god’s wisdom is infinite
yet he cannot, cares not to explain
the murder and rape of children.

Who wants to be god of all this?
Or a disciple? Or us?
All of us shuffling in
to a pliant mass,
quiet and respectful
in our churches, in our mosques
of flat-screen TVs
and all the other comforts of oil

that dull the blood,
that leaven the self-loathing
until we can’t care
to care
not even in this verse
we thought were once the enclave of gods

but now given everywhere
to the oily minutiae of our decent, respectable selves
in lines like broken anti-matter
because we cannot
do not
want to bear it any more.

Who wants to rule this tired republic
of shameful verse
and lead our crawl
back from gods
back into mud?
Better never to have been born,

better not to have grown to think,
to build edifices to our minds
so magnificent
they can ignore slaughter and rape
over which men in suits
argue ethics
until their mouths run red

from bloodied thumbs
counting their murderous dollars,
while god dies where he was made
in Syria

but also everywhere
where a commodity begins:
in a mine
where a rock-fall or a shotgun kills god
and a widow grows bitter,
in a micro-chip factory
where young workers stop dreaming
and we bow to the great God Automaton.

What does it matter?


(* Thank you to Young Homsi Lens for permission to use the photograph.)

Kingdom of Rain II

14 February 2013, 7:13 pm

Kingdom of rain II

I still dream of one day seeing,
sniffing at the ground not far from me,
softly grunting, a grizzly bear;
or sat down pulling at a vine of berries
or a sapling, oblivious to me or not caring,
or, even, knowing that I’m there
but with no malevolence,
with nothing more than wanting to stare
and wonder at it just being bear
and hope it will let me in –
not hunter, nor prey –
somewhere in a North American jungle
with god knows what else around us
but still just me, the trees, the bear.

Or sitting by a river, on watch with a bald eagle
guarding over time as time turns into dream,
the sound only of water over stones
like a chuckle dim and soothing
from a favourite uncle now gone
whom you try too late to love back
and the memory of him fading,
remorse too, trickling away
like some river where I dream
on watch with an eagle
which with a screech wakes itself
and me, and maybe the bear is gone
and the eagle flaps away
and time returns, the insoluble matrix.


Or maybe somewhere in a forest in India,
crawling by some small, slow river
to lie on the bank and watch
how with a muted plash surprising for its size,
a lone tiger breaks the algae on the water
and swims to the other side.
That I’d like to see, and see it rise
with its wet fur onto the far bank,
turn once, its whiskers dripping,
to look at me here outside of history, in dream
as in the idyll of this poem,
and then slip away, gone through the green reeds.


Many animals I dream of seeing.
The coelacanth which swims as if it walks.
A mustang fast and dark against a swathe of green.
Some rare bird whose name I still must learn.
A fox, a hedgehog, the astonished ratel.
Watch them from up close
or hold them in my hand, like once
a baby octopus at Blombos
in a two-second spell and it was off.
I would want them to know I mean no harm
but seek only these moments from their lives
so I may sometimes become no more human.
I’ll tell them tell the gecko too, and the salamander.


Most of all I dream of the sun on a rock
by the Molenaars up in Du Toit’s Kloof
and on the other side
by some small, still curve of the river
where from up a deep ravine forever in shade
a clear trickle runs in cold through fern and fynbos
where in a damp patch next to dark green moss
my father years ago may have pointed at a paw print.
I dream of lying in the sun there and watching
for that rare leopard to come and drink;
to see its paws settle on a stone,
to see its shy head lowered between rising shoulders,
to see the whole mechanics of leopard
in its easy possession of what belongs to it

and all would be that leopard and me,
the lap-lap of its tongue,
the soothing, chuckling water.
And it may stop and raise its head,
twitch its ears and squint,
then return to drink,
taking me in as if I belong,
knowing that it’s only me, it,
the water, the sun this idyll and the unseen;
that this is only dream
and that I seek no deeper meaning,
no encounter by which to turn this verse
into a dispatch from some other kingdom
or the failed settlements of philosophy.


Yet, I want to let that leopard know
that it is part of me
and I am part of it
in all the ways that that could mean.


Picture sources and credits:

1. Grizzly bear: First People;

2. Bald eagle: First People;×864/Majesty-in-the-Pines-1152×864.html

3. Tiger: The Everyman Photo Contest, 2009, Landscape/Nature winner, Sudip Roychoudhury;

4. Sculpture of coelacanth: photograph provided with kind permission of sculptor, Stuart Gold;

5. Leopard: photograph provided with kind permission by Tiffany Turkington;

Poem from Groundwork, Kwelabooks/Snailpress, 2012.

See also Kingdom of Rain, from This Carting Life, Kwela/Snailpress, 2012.


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