I go to the poem alone

 

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.

 

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