COUNTRY OF GRIEF AND GRACE Poem by Antjie Krog

COUNTRY OF GRIEF AND GRACE



a.

between you and me
how desperately
how it aches
how desperately it aches between you and me

so much hurt for truth
so much destruction
so little left for survival

where do we go from here

your voice slung
in anger
over the solid cold length of our past

how long does it take
for a voice
to reach another

in this country held bleeding between us


b.

in the beginning is seeing
seeing for ages
filling the head with ash
no air
no tendril
now to seeing speaking is added
and the eye plunges into the wounds of anger

seizing the surge of language by its soft bare skull
hear oh hear
the voices all the voices of the land
all baptised in syllables of blood and belonging
this country belongs to the voices of those who live in it
this landscape lies at the feet at last
of the stories of saffron and amber
angel hair and barbs
dew and hay and hurt


c.

speechless I stand
whence will words now come?
for us the doers
the hesitant
we who hang quivering and ill
from this soundless space of an Afrikaner past?
what does one say?
what the hell does one do
with this load of decrowned skeletons origins shame and ash
the country of my conscience
is disappearing forever like a sheet in the dark


d.

we carry death
in a thousand cleaving spectres
affected
afflicted
we carry death

it latches its mouth to our heart
it sucks groaningly
how averse lures the light on our skin
it knows
our people carry death
it resembles ourselves
our stomachs wash black with it
a pouch of ink
we carry death into the houses
and a language without mercy
suddenly everything smells of violence

death snaps its repentless valves in our language
yes, indefatigable meticulous death


e.

deepest heart of my heart
heart that can only come from this soil
brave
with its teeth firmly in the jugular of the only truth that matters
and that heart is black
I belong to that blinding black African heart
my throat bloats with tears
my pen falls to the floor
I blubber behind my hand
for one brief shimmering moment this country
this country is also truly mine

and my heart is on its feet


f.

because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within

it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull
it sings it ignites
my tongue my inner ear the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

I am changed for ever I want to say
forgive me
forgive me
forgive me

you whom I have wronged, please
take me

with you


g.

this body bereft
this blind tortured throat

the price of this country of death
is the size of a heart

grief comes so lonely
as the voices of the anguished drown on the wind

you do not lie down
you open up a pathway with slow sad steps
you cut me loose

into light - lovelier, lighter and braver than song
may I hold you my sister
in this warm fragile unfolding of the word humane


h.

what does one do with the old
which already robustly stinks with the new
the old virus slyly manning the newly installed valves
how does one recognise the old
with its racism and slime
its unchanging possessive pronoun
what is the past tense of the word hate
what is the symptom of brutalised blood
of pain that did not want to become language
of pain that could not become language

what does one do with the old
how do you become yourself among others
how do you become whole
how do you get released into understanding
how do you make good
how do you cut clean
how close can the tongue tilt to tenderness
or the cheek to forgiveness?

a moment
a line which says: from this point onwards
it is going to sound differently
because all our words lie next to one another on the table now
shivering in the colour of human
we know each other well
each other's scalp and smell each other's blood
we know the deepest sound of each other's kidneys in the night
we are slowly each other
anew
new
and here it starts


i.

(but if the old is not guilty
does not confess
then of course the new can also not not be guilty
nor be held accountable
if it repeats the old

things may then continue as before
but in a different shade)

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