Gert Strydom

(03 April 1964 / Johannesburg, South Africa)

Bush telegraph

(after Johann Johl)

We drive along the Kolkhoz road
where it passes near to an old battlefield
of the third German empire
of which nobody now bears any knowledge.

Its already spring and in the wood
some blossoms are appearing
and here and there
wild flowers grow next to the dust track

which are slushy from the mud
and we slide and slide
almost like on a rally track
until the road ends at the datja
where we want to spend the weekend.

We hear a black Eurasian woodpecker
knocking tick-tock against some trees
with the sound resounding right through the wood
as if he wants to signal
an unknown message to us.

The bush looks like something
out of the Baba-Jaga witch tale
and while Tanja tells me
about that evil cannibal

it's as if somebody walks over my grave
and the hairs of both my arms rise
but I view it as coming from the chill.

Like peasants we stop
and look at the scene,
breath in the fresh air
and see how our boots
leave tracks on the loam.

Quickly we carry our baggage into the dwelling
and Tanja's face is blushing
when we walk through the wood

where I am picking some wild flowers for her
and her smile is far past lovely
and her braided hair
swishes cheeky to and thro.

She carries a basket and we walk
from berry bush to berry bush
to fill it with brambles
that grow everywhere around us

and the woodpecker knocks out its signal
even louder and louder
as if his messages is becoming more urgent
but still we are not able to decipher it.

The Marconi-bird
suddenly flies past screaming,
knowing that his warning
is not regarded
and it's black with a red crown.

Tanja walks in advance
to the next bramble bush
is looking picture perfect with her blue eyes
which are shining brightly

when a German landmine
suddenly becomes alive beneath her
and the crackling explosion
of sunken scrap-iron
spreads her much higher
than the birch trees.

[Reference: Bostelegraaf (Bush telegraph) by Johann Johl. Kolkhoz: Community farm. Black Eurasian woodpecker: Dryacopus martius. Datja: Russian holiday home. Baba-Jaga: Russian cannibal witch.]

Submitted: Monday, March 11, 2013
Edited: Monday, March 11, 2013

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