breytenbach

Goya

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Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
with candles on the brim of his hat
straddles the rim of a dark century dark horses
my beloved
mouth-blind and the scream of terror
a dead stone in the head the head
of a dog squinting over earth’s hump

and inscribes his black paintings
on plaster of house walls the house
of the deaf masks under a rotten
rolling moon
my beloved

black as blood
black as bread
black as murder
black as chaos
black as execution
white like the fire flashing from the muzzle
of the gun
the bull smothers in his own blood
life is quicklime muffling the bones

from dark heaven arises a carnival
of cripples condemned ones a flare
of ghosts his hand remembers
does the hand still remember
the fawning of idiot king and retarded princesses
the bayonet in the freedom fighter’s gut
the crowning of the sardine remember
still the slender outline
the pale flesh and the dark fleece
of Maria del Pilar Teresa Cayetana
de Silva Alvarez de Toledo
la Duquesa de Alba
my beloved

his maja in red and black and gold
dark horses in the night the night
a populacho in procession
black like insomnia
our god is a mule
a muted blinding cry
a wall of darker fire

it is said poetry completes
what history leaves out
black like death
my beloved
my beloved

I’m so glad we live in peaceful times

 

– Breyten Breytenbach

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There Is No Time

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there is no time
time is man’s skin
it cracks and crackles and shrinks
in life’s passing-by
in the fire of being
telling the hours
then letting them be
in the ever reverberating
moment of silence

in the smoking dance
of the evening star and the midnight sun
in the curl of the leaf
in the dove’s swiftly
graceful and fluttered
gesture of dying

there is no time
time is the shooting
comet of recall
strewing heaven with the sparks
of stories no one will ever hear again

time’s my love for you
the lizard movements
in your body that come and go
to fill the hollows
with the fire of telling
those many faces of departure

there is no time
just the pulse of the heart
as pain under eye-shells

just the emptied tell-skin
of this poem
splotched and measured
by cancer words of forgetting
like lizard shit

 

– Breyten Breytenbach

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Today I Went Down

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today I went down on your body
while windows were thick white eyes
and hearkened the clogged cavities
in the small darkroom of your chest,
hedging an eternity over the aching voice
from your gorgeous throat,
agony and exaltation flow in one divide
if I may make so bold,
your thighs are a loveword your hair
night’s glittering lining of secret disport:
I aimed for the innermost moon
and rent, moved by the syntax and the slow
of sadness and of joy, so
I love you, love you so

when the blinding comes,
the discomposure of silence,
it must be high up the hills
where hundreds of poor
stamp their feet in the dust, and drums
and woman voices like this ululating skyline
gag the final ecstasy

 

– Breyten Breytenbach

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Rebel Song

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give me a pen
so I may sing
that life is not in vain

give me a season
an autumn a spring
to see sky with open eyes
when the peach tree vomits its white plenitude
a tyranny will be brought to earth

let mothers lament;
may breasts become dry
and wombs shrivel
when the scaffold finally weans its own

give me that love
which won’t rot between fingers,
give me a love like this love I must give you,
my dove

grant me a heart
that will pulsate its throb
more strongly than the white thrashing
heart of a terrified dove in the dark
knock louder than bitter bullets

give me a heart
small fountain of blood
to spout blossoms of bliss
for blood is never for naught

I need to die before I’m dead
when my heart is still fertile and red
before I eat the darkened soil of doubt

give me two lips
and bright ink for tongue
to write the earth
one vast love letter
swollen with the milk of mercy

sweeter day by day
spilling all bitterness
burning as summer
burns sweeter

then let it be summer
without blindfolds or ravens
allow the gallows to give the peach tree
its red fruit of satisfaction

and grant me a love song
of doves of atonement
so I may sing my life was not in vain

for as I die
to wide eyes
under sky
my red song will not lie
my red song will never die

 

– Breyten Breytenbach

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