We were taught no history complete deletion from the syllabus
an erasure of dates and names figures feats
(it’s poetic out of context to think the formal removal of happenings
the creation of a whole new text the beauty
of staring through factoid holes and other profanities)
deliberate cutouts of potential facts monuments special moments
generals genitalia costumes specific hats.
Timeline staggering under the weight of characterizations
I get it proximity of history in South Africa gnaws at the ease of current events.
The impossibility of teaching peacefully to a peer group
hot babes born into a system then let loose and
the relativity of truth gives way to a nihilism so startling
that history as the precursor to politics today
is bound to an audience with zero-sum attention span
huge spaces leaps and bounds of unknowing.
But can you even unknow if you never knew what it is all about
what it was all about will be about
as realism is precursor to abstraction
like knowing the rules to break the rules
it’s really unnecessary to forge or forgo information sapience is
authority that cannot simply be dismissed for an entire generation.
Blood never fails to play its part red that gorgeous substance
abuse I’m not talking blood relations red pigmentations
yes my uncle will always come fix a vehicle in distress
fluid that flows down a lineage is not or is it Bloedrivier
battles conflicts civil and world wars bloodshed watershed
shedding skins like wildlife livid over the fact empiricism
has become a pastime pasting heads like stickers along walls.
Stick figures flicker on sleet stalactites and other claustrophobic
tourist attractions. Birds cages are where feminists were kept
in concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer war these women
were not only the mothers of a nation but had hardworking hands
chapped to the touch frayed at the edges like objects well-loved
now sinking in among maggots routinely fed to the birds chased
away to make way for these women wearing pure larval gowns.
That boars translate to sanglier and that bloody sang drip drip drip
from the tusks. Die Groot Trek aesthetically like the movie Meek’s Cutoff
except another continent another courtesy to someone’s majesty
walking right over the crest of the country’s largest mountain
barefoot hoofing it high heel shoes never let a soul go hiking.
Hitchhiking with crocodiles I think that was a thing for a while.
There were wars involving spears versus rifles arm wrestling
thumb wars his thumb bigger than his thumb thumping
out that measurement to the smallest degree of separation.
Are there ever brief spells of calm when people actually live
in their beautiful period homes with healthy children
or is the smallest fraction of perfection an illusion
based on the repression of another fractured skull.
Chronologically 1948 to 1994 are illogical decades
nowadays a most important reminiscence of this time is
the separation of shit by race like that excrement running real fast
to break the ribbon and hold hands with the golden cup
golden is loaded skin colour rolled out gloating
tending to division between master and servant like
flakes of skin need to be brushed off and deeper layers of skin
must be nurtured murdered. When all else fails
there are always names to pin to lapels of those same names.
Words swimming to the surface fly affirmative action
townships sinking ships
discrimination crime rate hate speech
education power privilege underprivileged informal settlements
load shedding which is not jacking off but sitting in the dark
contemplating corruption xenophobia and fear of the dark.
For stepping out the door’s the opposite of release
hold your breath to listen clutch purse look over shoulder
the woman walking perpetually looking back looking back
looking back like there’s intention or an object to see
an object which avoids memory the instant seen
and needs immediate review to be studied interiorized
her gaze is eternally insufficient to the threat.
When did racism return is one of the most common
questions and the most naïve I’ve been tendered.
The Portuguese show up for a second but sail right on away
there’s a memorial cross where sailors had scurvy and I posture teen
and long-legged lean in a family vacation photograph
the Nguni show up Xhosa Swazi Zulu convex southern expansion
to the tip of the world the Dutch show up this is all in boats ships
the compass is a bright new thing the Sesotho show up the British show up
of course not a second late for the treasure quest gold and diamonds
the French show up Indonesian slaves show up
the Khoisan meditate extermination factors in to so many minds
that showing up is short of the ultimate gentlemanly act
Taiwanese and Korean immigrants show up immigrants
migrants illegals settlers colonists expats pats on the back.
When tourists sail like snakes from the Cape of Good Hope
to Robben Island and marvel at elements of civilization
like captivity crestfallen attachés of heartache is not equal to grief
Madiba has become the figurehead of everything
liberty equality fraternity peace love eternal wisdom
God-complex signs in and the actual suffering and strength
he manifested is reduced to the bleached out smile of public image.
Likewise Hector Pieterson lies down in the arms of objective correlative
iconic photographs and almost anatomical sketches of Shaka Zulu
so many feathers in his cap Florence Nightingale
singing lullabies that start with the question what would Dingaan do
with van Riebeeck de Wet de Klerk voertsek Verwoerd
mammary Malema the real dilemma of parliament.
The insignia poured into your hot chocolate so-called latte art
is considered by kids a set of antlers ruminating a plan of attack
with its bone brain calcium inbuilt into the image.
Archaeology is one of the words I will never forget the orthography of
so ingrained in my mind handwriting studies the excavation of
site-specific pages school time is such bullshit all-inclusive
index fingers bullfighting along the forehead.
This playpen with its pneumatic pretenses to academe
hosts of characters laurels around the ears
or horns hidden in the cavities behind the nose you can never know
the exact shape of the skull before stripped of hair and skin and flesh
atavistic postscripts linger to remind that not a single story
lives itself in isolation but worms its way into the homes
of every reclining figure in the hereafter.
The past is the headstrong skeletal taking its time to disintegrate.
Klara du Plessis is a poet residing alternately in Montreal and Cape Town. A chapbook, Wax Lyrical, is due for release Spring 2016 (Anstruther Press). Klara routinely writes essays and reviews about contemporary poetry, and curates the monthly, Montreal-based Resonance Reading Series. Follow her on Twitter.