Friday, October 12, 2012

D. J. Opperman - Glaucus gets out of the water / Wind swallows

D. J. Opperman, painted by Philip Terblanche

Glaucus gets out of the water
D. J. Opperman

He shakes the scales & droplets off

and heaves himself against a vin
the firm world in.

And from four nodes of the coelacanth

foot on foot
hand on hand
I crawl and waddle upright
beside the first river
through bush and between leafy elephant-ears
across a teetering-plank…
‘here I want to live’:
Thibault street 3
3340 your phone number
identification document…?

And around me: from the first waters

a world stands wet and clear.
I must learn the names
of all the minerals,
of carnations, birds –
name everything and count
and so doing take possession:
let my flag fly,
and with title-deeds
compile this earth’s catalogue
along this border as pioneer
and convince myself that I live above-water now.

The branches of the lilac drip,

camellias are wet,
the forehead of a monkey drips,
and hoopoes step pecking
across wet braids of lawn,
and everything drips, soaked
with baptismal waters.

And phone follows on phone

dove on dove
book on book –
from some yesterday alights
and all polinate and mate,
is rank and naked:
and dove and book
and woman and everything smell of salt and sea,
bamboo and gull
and I see everything bifocally.

Get into a big white tub,

wash off the slime,
with a towel dab dry,
step carefully,
oh ever so carefully
not to slip,
not to slide back into fish,
into lobster-eye.

[Translated by Johann de Lange]


Wind swallows
D. J. Opperman

Watching through the big glass pane
the play and rocking of the ocean
and hearing the tiny tittering sounds
of swallows spanning and slinging
measuring tape across and around my house,
I realise the inspection is complete.

It has already been decided:
I’ve been accepted to the warring world,
and for the time being
they’re safely quarted here.

Already the bricklayers
have begun to rough-cast
together my face brick house
to the earth of Franskraal.

And we: myself and SAA
and KLM and Alitalia
acquire a temporary tunnel
as sounders of the great domains.

[Translated by Johann de Lange]