Kelwyn Sole, Another version of melancholy

22 June 2011, 7:23 am

Another version of melancholy

1

The South-Easter’s here:

a vacuum in the air
announces it’s coming.

It really is something.
With a pale light infected
my soul sighs, dejected -
molehills, dead weeds,
wattles (no seeds)
bear thorns. The Flats
shift old sand, while rats
twitter on church spires
like sparrows. New fires

are set, arsonated.
No one’s over-elated
with this turn of events,
this oozing sense:

my sensitivity deflates.

The wind never abates,
stays on the increase;

no chance of release.
Relentless, rainless,
verging on brainless,
the ice-cream queue
is blown right through
the gulch in the mountain
to Rondebosch fountain
from Sea Point. Slow
the sand turns to dough:

you might not care
but I stop and stare -

for this cultural experience
is completely at variance
with most people’s notion
as they rush to the ocean

and (so easily) forgotten
by South Africans besotten
with politics, books,
films or sultry looks
at each other. For
who’s wise in this zephyr?

As the wind howls the keener
I gaze far to Messina
from my home on the hill.
All hope is as nil.

2

While apartheid is lessening
my gloom’s only strengthening;
quite different from Sartre
unrelaxed on Montmartre
this bad feeling of mine
‘ll beat his every time:

with De Klerk’s new reform
my nausea’s now the norm.

It’s not quite as viscid
it’s a thinness, so gelid…
though you never quite realise
it has ice-crazed your lives
with bad videos, and shopping
and new hair-do’s: not stopping!
As you walk in the street
it nibbles you, discreet -
watch out! frère, semblable!

when I considered you able
to have fun and repine
at this vision of mine -

you’ve stepped in a huge turd
of the existentially absurd!

3

Our Nature’s too exotic.
It’s not democratic
like the stuff in Westminster.
It’s so left, it’s sinister -

the bad vibes will shiver
your soul from Hex River
onwards. Telephone wires
and bursting car tires

till the doom-drenched poet
pops in his (her?) throat
a pus of aridity
like psychic acne…

The sky! the sky!
Too high, too high!
and all those plains
just boil my brains;

that frost-glazed grass
where bottles wink
their shattered glass,
and stinkblaars stink;

the meaningless fucks
in chintzy halls,
with plaster ducks
climbing the walls:

while an orange dust
(nature’s pollution)
decimates your lust -
so that’s no solution.

Off the national road
you learn to inhale
a despair you’ve sowed
in plastic and shale.

Though you aim to squirt
your hose on your flowers
and try to flirt
with a neighbour who glowers
each time that you smile:

as the hot stones pant
and the evening sun,
scowling, begins to run
pastel in the dirt
on each moribund hill
towards nothing. Still
gathers our spiritual
night…

Your leers beguile
only that which, small
stands ready erect
outside of her home.

It’s not what you’d want
to expect:
it’s not much fun,
it starts to pall,
seducing her kinky garden gnome.

4

Jacobson gets it right
where he writes from his white
domicile (Golders Green)
he sees what I’ve seen:

the land’s people all sad -
every one a nomad -
homelessness transcendental -
as they hurry pell-mell

from that this to this that:
while the true artist Goldblatt
points his lens (between yawns)
at Boksburg’s drab lawns,

to capture the essence
of our mass deliquescence
of culture (no one can beat
the cul-de-sac street

which ends in the veld
where sensibilties melt).
Read Nicol the poet -
he’ll shove down your throat

the cluttered shop-windows
of ignorance. He shows
in one-dimensional verse
what’s one-dimensionally worse:

and, faint through the fear
of flat Coke lurking there,
shows via the sublime
failure of his rhyme

the real haunting sound
that bores through our ground.
No one can aspire
to anything higher,

take this fact from me:
I’ve tried, as you see…

5

If you were like us
you’d make quite a fuss:

but there’s still the enigma
that you read the dead dogma

of that putrid Karl Marx,
and quote Fanon’s remarks;

the extreme melancholy
implicit in the folly

of that ideologue Louis
Althusser, who’s screwy.

Who imagines it’s svelte
to Foucault in the veld?

Won’t you cast off the fetter
of not wanting verse better?

I enquire, really, truly,
can you tolerate Mbuli?

(I’m getting so cross
my great mind’s at a loss.)

6

Yet, despite your indifference
some of us will continue
to do best what we do
with such dogged persistence:

our acumen will not be
unremarked, unrewarded;
each poem’ll be hoarded,
a trove for the cognoscenti.

Posterity will gather
our art’s far superior
to the blatant hysteria
of ideological blather;

then, our genius unfurled
and the hoi polloi gaping,
just watch us escaping
your
(so passé)
Third
World!

Kelwyn Sole, Projections in the Past Tense, Ravan Press, 1992


Housing targets – Kelwyn Sole

29 April 2009, 11:48 am

Housing targets

Somewhere in our past
we believed in the future

that a better world
would discover foundation
under our feet, and we
would forever be singing,
in its kitchen.

Bricks pile up in a field.
Whether they will be enough
no one knows. How
they fit together
is anybody’s guess.

Men with darkening skins
scribbled on by weather
wait for their instructions.

From time to time
limousines miraculously appear:
there is always a somebody
in a suit willing to smile
and shake their hands

who lays the first stone.

Then the camera lights
and racing engines
turn around, shrink back
from where they came.

Those left behind
stare at their own hands
afterwards, puzzled
at precisely what
has been transacted, why
they are still being offered
bonds

squint
between gnarled fingers
pace out the hopeful distances:
- there will be a flower bowl.
- my bed is going here.

As for now the doorknobs
have no doors.

Their windows peer out
at no sky.

– Kelwyn Sole, Love that is Night (Gecko Poetry, 1998)


My Countrymen – Kelwyn Sole

20 November 2008, 9:33 am

My Countrymen

As our treacherous land spins now
away from the sun, and a carpet of stars
descends on the cold floor
of winter

we, separately, yawn
brush our teeth with the defence budget
and go to bed without each other -
the Magopa patriarch flung at Pachsdraai
a clod of crumbled soil;
the cleaner who’ll climb the skyscraper night
now cooks her husband’s supper
already sick with tiredness

and old and powerful men
sucking their thumbs in sleep, one hand curled
round the cuddlesome security of the Nkomati Accord,
faces blissful

and the rest of us

the many lessons we haven’t learnt
the courageous stands we never took
the synapse between pain and knowledge
of ourselves, our nerve ends bathed
in acetylcholine and history

where fate plays roulette with our skins
(but we daren’t call it russian)

my countrymen

of the homespun hopeful visions
we wear as underwear this season

our night has come again

– Kelwyn Sole, The Blood of Our Silence, 1987


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