Last Days Of Beautiful

by The Buckfever Underground

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JANUARY out of the sunshine climb the moths of the night into the ground into the flood into the thorn trees and bracken and bush by the gravel dam the lean-to goat shed and its sisal-poled shantytown sail through the stranded koppies and deeply ploughed ridges and the riches of the veld come in speckled lichen and dark-winged buzzards and the captain leguan calls a silent tongue along the ground for the souls to follow a small light at the bottom of the winding pools the silver line snaking slaking shaking the yellow pollen the exploding cloud the nightmouth open the wind cool and the moths back in. ----- sitting inside a happy old tired thought and the cars and buzzing flies on the wet-lipped mouth and pause the town a sliced open fruit droplets slo-mo through the sky the sky is the sky of the mute a flock of starlings grow in number swirl above the caravans and then someone leans over and says ‘this is the end, this is how the end comes’ ------ now you will come around the corner and your smile will be alive and open and from your hands will come words ‘shall we touch fingertips?’ I’ll ask and you’ll say ‘yes, let’s do that’ sun will cut slices of cake from the world around us and daily troubles and tax and Syria and gunmen politics and hate will for a moment not be here there will be nothing just this just us here gathered tonight ---- from inside the dying light from the ping of the glass when the shots die down when the door of a home opens sunshine and birds spread across the world of the hand of a man and the heart of a woman and the tongue of a child and the wild woods will crackle and pop animals swim underwater and fly above it and sit atop cliffs and bark baboons and kudus and bushbuck and dogs down to the movement of the cars and the cities and the moonlit pipes of the deepest down dark of the mine and the murk the money and the smirk and the lazy swinging punch the rubber bullets and armoured cars the koppies and the knobkieries the overalls and beanies the gumboots and torn shirts the lips and teeth and zol in there the language the speaker the listener the word spit and shine and toe the line ---- and what we say is not all we are but billboards, wings and black the black of the night at our backs as we turn around the blind corners and we see laughs, lipstick and hair but beware: where the eye combs not the world is a knot it’s a puzzle and a nail a nest of words and hail and what the eye smooths out curls up between our shoulders where a monster is knitted with no gloves to hold it it just coals and smoulders it smokes and foals like a filly in brine ---- skuins uit die halfuur strompel ’n soldaat met ’n been in die mond op die straathoek staan en kou kon die minister nie maar net brode bak en grou met die hand wuif waar hy wou en die misrabelheid weg kon jou soos in Bybelstories nou in ’n ou geweeklaag ’n ge-arme ek ’n ge-arme jy die gemene deler die gemene gene die gemeenskapsaaldaknatmaak die uniforms en die vlae die party-t-hemde gespan oor party-mae in ’n party-straat met ’n party-naam word die partytjie geteken in ink en op die stippellyne gelaat deur die strompelende soldaat se stomp bloedvoete getatoe tot die donker met die eensame gefluit deur die holte van die been skoongeblaas van murg en skoongesuig van wit ---- skuinsgeslaan deur die son en uitgedraai deur die paaie van die land verby die doringdraad en die pale verby die klinkers, die sparre verby die heinings om die skape en die bokke en die beeste en die beste van die verderf stap hulle met koppe op lywe en lewens op stokke en donkies op verslae hoewe deur die stof en die reën en die wind na die naderende golf en die kind op die heup op die rug op die wa met die dooie woorde van mossies opgefrommel in broeksakke die golf van haas en gryp die golf van nie haat nie maar nie liefhê nie die golf van nie omgee nie nie omkyk nie nie opkyk nie die golf van oormaat en glans van goue gans gaarmaak op gods akker en gods wagbeurt waar die drenkelinge in stadige aksie uitspoel op die strand met net ’n hoedjie in die hand ---- an aeroplane flies over the slow warm night and the bay and the lights a broken black dance of here and not here and I sit and I think of a small house on a mountainside with a fireplace for a heart and a flock of birds of books shear down the slope cutting the time into mahem minutes and osprey seconds and wind-swallow split seconds and feathers and squeaks and the thought rushes across my face and down the lining of the inside of my shadow percolates through the broth and blood around my organs the crow’s nest of sinews and veins around my bones and leaves through a tiny hole at the back of my skull back into the small house into the fire into the chimney out into the kloof in amongst the birds in amongst the books and gone --- onder die bestek van my gesig is my skedel ’n fossiel en die spore van my frons en die rimpel van my oë dieselfde as die lyne wat ons oopkap uit rots dieselfde splinters bene opgespoor oopgeboor en afgestof pas in die dele van my skelet waar skrapnel en tyd en kanker oor die eeue my voorskadu oopgeskiet en hand na mond aangespoor het om te swoeg en wakker te slaap en in die hande te spoeg en met ’n fyn onfeilbaarheid ’n spies in die huid van ’n dier te forseer en te draai en te dood of met hande uitmekaarskeur en eet of vreet met bloed wat by die punte van die elmboë ontmoet en soos ek hier staan saampoel soos ’n fyn net en oor die aarde span al stywer en trom met die liggiese wip van die wiel van die mensdom ---- and now when I fall asleep at night and the sediments of sleep sift down upon my face cementing my body to the sheets and my bones to the mattress so that i’m there but not here at the bottom of a river but afloat in the sand of an upside down world the roof of a cave where ferns and bats can walk and squawk or slipped into the hem of a cloud which is about to unburden its rain on a fire in the berg or I stand silently on attention inside the trunk of a pine in a forest submerged by an avalanche on a planet we’ve never noticed in the blind spot of our own I am a small owl inside an egg I am a disposable cup and a nut in the cheek of a squirrel inside an elephant balancing on one leg in a circus with no whip hooray
PAY BACK THE MONEY greetings, friends, family, fellow humans welcome to the parliament of the people the open-plan world, a sky with no fence all the way to Venus, the open-source transfer of common sense all around our ears and tongues and eyes and minds, welcome to the give me a hug when I’m feeling bad place the happy place the place where it’s ok that if you owe your friend some money you pay it back when you can, maybe after payday, sure, because here we pay back the money I come to you with good news tonight because as much as our country is broken and divided and limping on last electric legs – we’re whole, we’re one piece from the Cape Flats through the tunnel all across the as yet unfracked Karoo with its starbedonnerde night skies, the waving fields of GM mielies in bloom – GM mielies that feed more of us for the waste of less land and the application of less pesticides than before, you better believe it, fistpump, GM mielies, fistpump – beyond that, beyond the Free State, Joburg’s kaleidoscope of money and mense, the bushveld’s warthog herds with their own little undiscovered curves of ivory all the way to Musina where it’s but a gate and a passport that deliver you over an imaginary line into yes – more of what we call home, more Africa, more unbroken country of our collective skulls, yes, the unbroken country of our collective skulls where we so happily pay back the money we pay back the money and because of this, we’re also as united as we’re divided because we share the same blood, air, ground, GM mielies, we lean on one another, we work for one another, we love one another, we rock out to the other’s music, we dress like the other, we mother the other until the other is not other but us, and you, me, jou ma, jou pa, an oke in Japan, another in Guatamala – we’re all Nigerians as far as the aliens are concerned, we’re all French-speaking as far as they know, they think we all like soccer, that we all listen to Kurt Darren! – because we’re just here on earth, together, on a soccer ball in space, a place we love and treasure, a place where we with big smiles on our faces, proudly, pay back the money and because we have the ability to limp, it means we have the ability to walk, and to heal, and to run on fresh ankles and knees and ligaments, and acknowledge our failures and trump up our triumphs and fix things, and make things better, and switch off more lights because it’s not Eskom we’re helping, it’s not money we’re saving, it’s our children we’re helping, it’s common sense, it’s because many of us have too much stuff – ja, we have too many t-shirts and pairs of shoes and crap – and we can do with less, and when we do with less we end up doing more because with less you have to work harder and think harder and lean on friends and family and help and holler and hug and hope and you know what, we pay back the money, which we do, with smiles on our faces yes, for all the broken and divided and limping natures of our country we are whole, and united, and running across freshly mown fields, for when there’s the realisation of fragility, of failure, of fucking up, then there’s also the realisation of hope, the knowledge that we can do great things without having to have a great leader at the head of our state because we don’t need that, we can’t bank on that, we actually have very little control over that because the leaders of nations are usually people in it for all the wrong reasons they’re there accidentally, or because they were headboy in school and now want to be headboy forever, or because they fought in a war and won, or because they have all the guns and tanks and bombs, or just because they think it’s a good job with good easy money because let’s face it a lot of it seems flippen easy, and also maybe because the politician thought he or she would look good in a suit or wearing pearls or in an aeroplane or it would be lekker to shop in Washington or London or Beijing and though it’s supposed to be about the people – me, you, jou ma, jou pa – it’s never really about the people except when the newspaper photographers are around, we know this, and we should actually not care, we should look after ourselves, and care for ourselves and love one another, and respect one another and fix our own things and fix our friendships and family life and neighbourhoods and towns and farming districts and drug problems and work, work, work, and love, love, love, and laugh, laugh, laugh and try to pay back our friends when we owe them a little bit of money even if it’s only after payday or when our little ship comes in, just a small ship is enough, but when it does come in, we should remember to pay back the money
EK SKRYF HIERDIE VIR JOU ek skryf hierdie vir jou vanuit die maag van ’n berg, waar ek ingedruk en geduldig lê en wag, ’n onontdekte deel van die Merensky-platinumrif, ek wil aan jou meedeel dat ek ’n tiervis is, en ek swem kalm in die warm waters van die Okavangorivier, verby die sliertwortels van papirusse en my tande blink, ek lê met my oog teen die stof by Oppikoppi, en ek kyk na die verslete, vreugdevolle voete van mense wat by my verbystroom, ek is in die klein, vinnige spasie tussen Paul Hanmer se vinger en die klawer van die klavier net voor hy daaraan raak, ek sit tans met my hande gevou rondom ’n perfekte granaat in die verbode boord van ’n Persiese tiran, ’n duisend jaar gelede, en dis volmaan, ek spoel uit op ’n strand, sonder ’n draad klere, omring deur goue munte en wrakstukke van my karveel, en meeue is gou daar om aan my oë te begin pik, ek is in die kar op die Krugersdorp-pad, en die verkeer is opgehoop, en daar’s net kak op die radio, en my vensterarm is al rooi gebrand, en my sonbril is gekrap, en ek dink aan die slagte wat ons saam dronk was, en die wêreld vir oomblikke kon verstaan, en besluit het dat ons vriende was, en altyd sal wees, en uit mekaar se lewens sou leer hoe om te lewe, ek kyk nou hier na my glimlag in die spieël, en dit is, verbasend genoeg, die glimlag van ’n skoonheidskoningin, en ek besef dat ek nog nie my beenhare geskeer het nie, en geen idee het hoe ek wêreldvrede sou kon bewerkstellig nie, as die wêreld vrede wou hê, ek is ’n hond, ’n ou teef, met hangtiete en ’n padwaardigheidsertifikaat iewers in die ou Wes-Transvaal en ek kyk na die karre en mense om my en ek dink ‘Fok julle almal’, en dan draf ek aan, maar stadig, ek is in ’n skemer kamer in ’n bed met ’n vrou, ek is ’n soldaat, en mortiere reën om my neer en die laaste brief aan my ma gaan saam met my in my hempsak uitbrand, ek het ’n vrou en drie kinders, ek geniet ’n sigaar, ek is ’n Kubaan, ek verkoop grawe, ek soek ’n voetpad en vind dit, en volg dit verby hoë kranse en versteekte fonteine na ’n vingergetrekte sirkel in die sand, waarbinne ek kruisbeen gaan sit en terstonds verander in ’n dassievoël, met klein swart ogies soos papajapitte – as jy kan onthou dat papajas eens pitte gehad het – ek is swart-en-wit en wanneer jy my klaar afgeskil het sit die stof van motvlerke aan jou vingers vas, ek is verheug dat julle almal hier is, ek ken al julle name, wanneer ons hierdie vertrek verlaat vanaand, verlaat ons dit met nuwe name, en die nuwe tuistes wat ons in die nanag gaan bereik, bestaan in die geheue van die mense vir wie ons lief is, en wie lief is vir ons, ons bestaan voort in die gloed van middernagpetrolstasies, ons lê almal stil aan die voet van witgatbome ver hiervandaan, in die diep-Karoo se grouste gleuwe, ons is die vingers van babas wat nooit gebore is nie, ons is ’n oopgevlekte snoek op ’n braai waaroor nou ’n mengsel van botter, appelkooskonfyt en knoffel gesmeer word, ons is mikroskopiese tekens van lewe op die skadukante van swerwende komete, ons is as, en as is ons, ons het geen anker nodig nie, want ons is die see, die riviere wat opdraand loop, die druppel wat terugvloei na die wolk, die woorde uit die sleutelbord geslurp, die sinne van ink in ’n tyd van lekkende Bic-penne aanmekaargestring in ’n ewige verlede tyd van gryp die dag aan, van lig jou snawel na die son, van oog teen die meniskus van rooiwynglas, van drie in die hoekie in beseringstyd, van woeker, van fluit, van flink, van sin, van want – en daar, ver terug in daardie oerverlede sit ons nou onder ’n oorhang waarbo die sterre bruis saam om die gloed van ’n vuur en glimlag. ons is as, en as is ons, ons het geen anker nodig nie, want ons is die see, ons lê almal stil aan die voet van witgatbome ver hiervandaan, ek geniet ’n sigaar, ek is ’n Kubaan, ek verkoop grawe, ek is ’n Kubaan, en dan draf ek aan ek is ’n Kubaan, ek verkoop grawe, ek geniet ’n sigaar, ek soek ’n voetpad en vind dit, en volg dit verby hoë kranse en versteekte fonteine na ’n vingergetrekte sirkel in die sand, waarbinne ek kruisbeen gaan sit en terstonds verander in ’n dassievoël, met klein swart ogies soos papajapitte, ek is swart-en-wit en wanneer jy my klaar afgeskil het sit die stof van motvlerke aan jou vingers vas, ek is verheug dat julle almal hier is, ek ken al julle name, wanneer ons hierdie vertrek verlaat vanaand, verlaat ons dit met nuwe name, en die nuwe tuistes wat ons in die nanag gaan bereik, bestaan in die geheue van die mense vir wie ons lief is, en wie lief is vir ons, ons bestaan voort in die gloed van middernagpetrolstasies, ons lê almal stil aan die voet van witgatbome ver hiervandaan, in die diep-Karoo se grouste gleuwe, ons is die vingers van babas wat nooit gebore is nie, ons is ’n oopgevlekte snoek op ’n braai waaroor nou ’n mengsel van botter, appelkooskonfyt en knoffel gesmeer word, ons is mikroskopiese tekens van lewe op die skadukante van swerwende komete, ons is as, en as is ons, ons het geen anker nodig nie, want ons is die see, die riviere wat opdraand loop, die druppel wat terugvloei na die wolk, die woorde uit die sleutelbord geslurp, aanmekaargestring in ’n ewige verlede tyd van gryp die dag aan, van lig jou snawel na die son, van oog teen die meniskus van rooiwynglas, van drie in die hoekie in beseringstyd, van woeker, van fluit, van flink, van sin, van want – en daar, ver terug in daardie oerverlede sit ons nou onder ’n oorhang waarbo die sterre bruis saam om die gloed van ’n vuur en glimlag.
SIT DIT AF is jy ook gatvol vir als wat jou foon jou bied van hoe dit jou per twiet herwaarts hiet en verniet gebied, jou gedagtes giet per Google-georkestreerde order van debiet? in daai geval, sit daai slimfoon van jou af, want die glim van daai slimfoon wat vir jou dim maak is jy ook nou dommer as toe jy jonger was nie, voller van kommer as toe jy eenvoudig was nie? en is jy deesdae die verbeeldinglose kwas wat volgens sagte bevele volg en verf waar jy eens die kunstenaar was, die individu? die slimfoon se glim dié maak vir jou dim, so sit dit af, vriende, kom ons sit daai slimfone van ons af al is jou vinger op die elektroniese pols van sake is jy elders ’n skim, selfs ’n morhoon die slaaf van ’n slanke slimfoon (skerm ongekraak) jou sprankel verdrink, verstar jou kake in die geknars van die algoritme jou droë dopsels oë gerig op die fantastiese fasade van ’n likeable droom geketting aan die kletterjoel click-through ads na aanlynwinkels en Zuckerberg-zones waar die klank van jou kredietkaart vir ’n ander ou lyne laat sny en dalk ook laat droom van ontsnap van dit alles en vlug na waar die visarend roep en soepel vlerkklap hier in Afrika ja, sit dit af, sit dit af, want selfs die president van Amerika regeer ons uit die palm van sy hand met die swaai van die towerstaf van sy foon word kwaad gestook in Damaskus, Pjonjang en Indonesië, (en selfs hier in Darling) die land van blatjang die Wildekus van beeste en krewe en tussen turksvy en coyotegat op die oewer van die Rio Grande teen die grens van Meksiko waar hy mos nou ’n muur wil bou maar kan jy glo, dié vent, ene Trump kan jy afsit met jou duim net só! so sit dit af, sit daai slimfoon van jou af, kom ons sit daai fone af ja, en die tirannie van die blokketting Bitcoin kan jy wegraap met die plant van rape en radys heel organies sommer in die agterplaas by jou huis sit dit af, vriende, en sien die son daarbuite en in die harte van jou vriende en jou vrou jou kinders en jou man sal jou meer waardeer wanneer jy weer weet wat vanaand te ete is sonder om gou te gaan soek na ’n sopresep op BBC Food of hoe? (want is sop dan nie iets wat jy uit jou kop uit behoort te kan maak nie? almal kan sop maak, jy hoef nie jou foon te vra hoe om sop te maak nie, maar tog – daar staan ons en Google ‘hoe maak ’n mens sop?’ jy moet dit uit jou kop uit kan maak – sit af daai slimfone... sit dit af!) dit is ook onmoontlik om met jou foon hoe slim of oud, koud of goud, woorde te kan skryf of te hoor soos hierdie: silwer in die leivoor pouveer in die pad vol sterre en sing soos spreeus sou in die sipresse soos nou val elke vonkel lig in die lukwartpitswart oë en: brons teen die berg palms teen die bors die koedoes is op kerk en die besembosse lui tot net die suidewind waai kloof af, (en straaf af, en op met die R27) en koebaai ja, sit dit af vriende, sit dit af (ons het nie regtig ons fone nodig om te ry tot by Darling nie, maar tog, daar sit jy by die huis en jy maak foon oop en jy sê ‘ek wil ry na Evita se Perron’ en dan druk jy ‘OK, start’ en dan kry jy directions, al was jy al 10 of 20 keer in jou lewe hier in Darling, moet jy nog steeds vir jou foon vra hoe om in Darling uit te kom, dis heeltemal onnodig – ek het dit self gedoen, guilty as charged – almal weet hoe om in Darling uit te kom, jy hoef nie jou foon te vra nie – sit dit af – as jy nou regtig verdwaal vra vir ’n ou langs die pad, draai jou venster af en vra ‘hei, weet jy waar’s die regte pad Darling toe? ek is in Atlantis, ek het verdwaal, is ek diep onder die see?’ ‘Nee, Darling is net in die pad op, ry verby Mamre, jy gaan daar uitkom, jy gaan oraait wees ou maat.’) so sit daai slimfoon van jou af, maak vir ’n slag weer sop uit jou kop uit. Hei, mis jy jou vriende? Jy hoef nie net hulle fot’s te like op Facebook nie, jy kan hulle ook bel of na hulle huis toe stap en aan die deur klop en sê ‘hei, hier is ek, ek het jou laas gesien by jou troue, ek het nie geweet jou kinders is al so groot nie’ – maar hulle gaan seker besig wees op hulle slimfone, besig om games te speel... sit dit af, vriende, sit dit af
WALK FAST, WHISTLE walk fast, whistle cock your ears and listen hold your line hold your own wind the window down while you’re driving tap the beat on the wheel look up, greet touch a hand and feel float a thought to the rafters smile at strangers do not diet don’t be quiet eat tomato sauce do not hold back a tear drink beer do not drink and drive talk less about yourself talk less mess up, apologize eat pie eat humble pie open your eyes look inside your friends and ask them how they truly are take a trip round the darkest bends together, tracking the trail of the wandering star to as far as the road goes or the ship would sail and the story will then slow down it will hit a sandbank and the phosphorescence in the water will glow and grow a blanket of silence in which you can be wrapped sometimes though be quiet for an hour sit in the veld and observe if not ants, then birds if not birds, then bats if not bats, then buck pick up pretty stones and twisted roots seed pods and mice skulls carry them home arrange them on the window sill trace their outlines against the days of your life have your lemonade, cold your tea, slowly your coffee, with a rusk write with a pen on paper purchase pencils send postcards to distant friends travel alone travel far travel to the point where you can swivel on your heel and remember where you come from and who you are and why you came phone your parents phone your siblings phone your school friends phone your sick friends phone your friends with children sometimes, switch off your phone for a week do not check email do not use a computer sleep for twelve hours three days in a row until your dreams return read a thick book a 1000-page book a book with difficult words in it a book with an open ending like Roberto Bolaño’s book walk around the house in your underpants or naked without drawing the curtains do push-ups, run when the wind blows strongly lean into it and open your arms like an albatross (and just hang there for a while pretending you don’t live in the suburbs, you don’t owe the bank money, you’re just an albatross somewhere in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, just for a few minutes and then you can come back down and) burp, fart, shit pee outside and especially, next to highways wipe your bum with something other than toilet paper buy the newspaper even if you don’t read it support the idea of a poem write poems, bad or good, hidden or shown purchase binoculars, study birds investigate trees consider different types of grass stop by a road-cutting and look at the layers of rock picnic, own a thermos wrap sandwiches in foil eat peanut butter from the jar drop it like it’s hot drink coca cola when it’s hot drool on your pillow dance laugh cry dance laugh cry dance laugh cry dance laugh cry but you know cut all that shit spend money donate money but dislike money earn money and look after money but dislike money do something you like if it’s an office job remember who’s the boss and who’s in charge and that you’re the latter swim in the sea or swim in a river or swim in a farm dam hold your breath for a long time open your eyes underwater float on your back and close your eyes listen to the sound in your ears the slow, dark, deathly croak of your brittle body’s cooked and cracked organs and bones and thne, slowly paddle back to where you can stand and look at the person waiting there and then walk over and kiss her
ALL THE LOVES / LAST DAYS OF BEAUTIFUL all the loves of the season are here, behold we have to eat our daily mielies holding them by our hands spinning the cob under the tips of our index fingers like the world the watermelon slice of world the fine dust of the carpenter settling on the shallow sea of his sweaty skin his tender wetsuit of refined wood there he is lost in a forest, the lonely pine all the loves of the season are here and they hold hands and sit in a park as children and levitate as leaves some of what will come will be violent and winter will slow down the highveld will smell of electricity and coal spikes and cold water spit and dead dog on the highway pigeons and cordite and muffin wrappers petrol and piss and skin but all the loves of the season are here and when spring comes and the sailboats are hung in the sky from them will be shook fresh beers and party hats wedding vows and choruses splits of laughter and palms slapping on a swimming pool and then all the loves of the season shall hum and gather their smiles and then hold you up and say: we are all the loves ---- the most sensible thing to do with all the loves is to write them out a hundred thousand times on the inside of paper-thin sharp bird skulls and walnut shells the walls of the ruins of farmhouses around which lie scattered shards of pottery and plates, prickly pears and dried out pigeon wings and recite all the names of all the loves silently in your sleep in a sleeping bag under the stars in a cave where the last coals dance like the black spots of a genet or a civet or a black-footed cat across your docked hip and back and neck and lips mouthing the last loves imperceptibly moving leaves just breathing, just twirling there on their stems on the branch on their tree in its place around which the last loves gather in a kind of wild race a formula one with no track and no start no finish and no rules no winner and no last just a chair on a porch empty but warm: yours ---- all the loves swim and leave their clothes on the beach hoist their children to their shoulders as they walk back to their cars and call their dogs all the loves sit around a table without words moulding their food with their tongues into small enough balls the loves under the tree on the summer lawn look up to where the crested barbet’s swallowed alarm clock shatters the canopy and the bark into a gazillion dots and bytes all the little loves are on the wall of the kraal and their small feet dangle from their reverse antelope knees as they watch a deft hand digging deep into a cow to slide a gasping calf wrapped in plastic slimo-cellophane into the sun of life the weary loves stop at the top of the hill and look back to where more are still pushing their wheelbarrows full of water and children bags of maize flour sugar and tea and soap and all around the rutted dirt ribbons of road of goats and groves of banana and fields of cassava and cashew nut trees and coconuts they pause to wipe the sweat from another hour and all the loves gathered around the hole in the ground have had already now the cool of the church steamed from their suits and their dresses and their hats as they return a hymn to the sky ---- all the loves slowly set fire to their insides, and their ideas the bar is a palace the walls are lined with the heads and horns of antelope shot at daybreak nearby all the loves twirl with the pale-winged starlings around the shepherd’s tree at the mouth of the kloof where a traitor was shot a century ago all the loves lift stones they disarm scorpions with a quick pinch and eat them all the loves are going to town on Friday to buy a new shoe to take a pocket of potatoes to a grandmother wearing glasses made in 1962 all the loves are waiting to catch the bus back the bus back with broken suitcases the bus back with bulging bags the bus back to where the backs of friends are pulled up at the stove stirring a pot of something to eat something with someone somewhere all the loves thrill all the loves can tear us apart all the loves ride on all the loves rock and roll all the loves can live as one all the loves can tear us apart all the loves ride on all the loves rock and roll all the loves can live as one because we are all the loves ---- in the last days of beautiful we lick from one another’s salty eye pans from which grassy thin trails lead to other parts of our faces where the heavier animals have walked before ---- the last days of beautiful have galloped from far away and now rest by the valley’s rim lungs quietly working life back into stretched limbs to watch as we lock the door on our most precious things one last time ---- it’s really just that we are one another’s Google Earth and I can zoom in to where your contours pixelate and your dreams are to be seen with afternoon shadows stretching across a sandy lick left behind by a now gone river a thousand years ago this invisible kolk where in a flood drowned sheep will twirl and swirl a funny dance with old tyres acacia thorns, dip cans and you and your loved ones and summer ceilings freshly painted gates and the rich, strong smell of open earth, and dung, wet I have dropped into Street View and I am holding your hand not that you could get lost or I could get lost but because it is the only way to know that we are both here and feeling our way down a familiar, lived-in land burning with light sunlight, fire, street lights and a re-adjusted north and telephone pole upon telephone pole upon telephone pole upon upon telephone pole upon upon telephone pole upon upon telephone pole upon upon telephone pole upon ‘This Is The Last Days Of Beautiful’ I say and you say ‘Why don’t you then climb into this sand dune with me?’ so I do, I shut the sand dune behind us and we pack the word This into a sock-drawer where it stays with Is and The and Last and Days are set free through a small window to fly away to an Ark of their own and Of is planted in a pot and watered and Beautiful is laid out on the table and lightly dressed with something and then then we tuck in ---- (these are the last days of beautiful, and we are in them but within them, we are all the loves, and that is the nice thing to know and to remember)
WHEN I’M GONE / WANNEER EK WEG IS in the corner of my eye you turn the page of a book and your eyes follow the words and soak them up into the corners of your mouth where the mysterious little waves lap and swirl with old thoughtsticks in an eddy where the foamy memories of long gone great-great grandparents and their pets – the cats and dogs and budgies and parrots – still lick their paws to a silken sheen on a sunny sill above the sink in the kitchen with the curtains, you know those curtains I mean, the plastic lacey ones, and still look at you with take-me-for-a-walk-eyes let-me-bark-at-the-squirrel-eyes I-rolled-in-hadeda-poo-and-still-expect-of-you-to-love-me-eyes feed-me-a-piece-of-biltong-eyes let-me-be-a-dog-and-lick-you-eyes, still jump and hang onto the side of a cage and look into a room, a house, a family’s possessions and forgotten ghosts, still repeat words which only sailors use words a dead aunt used to say from a discontinued advertisement selling a funeral plan the ring of a telephone from the late 90s the doorbell now disconnected to discourage door-to-door beggars and you turn the page and touch your hair and with it the long line of women before you centuries ago, a couple of thousand years ago into places we have lost all contact with places where we would now be strangers places before surnames and before homes before villages and streets even before agriculture all of those women who were once birds and snowflakes the scented dust in the inner twirl of the organic watch spring of a bog fern up by The-Ridge-Where-The-Goat-Jump-Off all of those women who have threaded the yarn through their soil-hardened fingers as it streamed off the wheel onto the spool like a warm, milky white gold as direct link to the land where the sheep graze and the history that brought them here the boats, the creaking boats, the shipwrecks the shipwrecked nation-builders, the founding fathers and their forlorn mothers and the offshore, underwater eruptions which wash up at daybreak on Runaway Beach as a grey carpet of pumice but in actual fact as messengers from the underworld, the hot world the lava from the hairline cracks in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which come to say shhhh be quiet shhhh ---- terwyl ek weg is, weet dat die kos anders smaak dat die geselskap, indien nie heeltemal kleurloos ontneem is van die vuurballe wat uit jou leeubekkiemond kan stroom, dat die son bloot ondergaan, en dat dit ophou om mooi te wees, dat die dae verbygaan soos wit blokkies op ’n kalender in stede van leë blikkies op hoekpale flenters geskiet met ’n geweer dat slaap bloot rus is, in plaas van ineengestrengelde droomtyd ondergedompel in ’n tipe vleeslike grootdoop van mensbloed, en tweewees, en tyd terwyl ek weg is, neem my saam, dra my rond in jou broeksak, rugsak, en kar-cubbyhole kougom in mondhoek, Zam-Buc op lippe en die vinger onder die lyn wat jy lees word gevolg deur my oog ook, net ’n paar woorde traer en daardie onverwagte nies, is ek wat nies van die fyn stof op die blaaie wat jy omblaai en jou hortende, brandende longe wanneer jy teen ’n opdraand uitdraf en dan met hande om die heupe bo staan en asemskep en uitkyk oor die groen, nat landskap waardeur winde swiep en die kaart van die plekke waar ons nog moet saamstap en drink en dans voor jou uitgesprei lê en stryk dan die kreukels daarvan plat en laat die son opkom in jou glimlag, want ek is hier, wanneer ek weg is, is ek hier wanneer ek terug is, kan ons soos dolfyne in die lakens baljaar die laaste lig saamskaar, meng met ’n vag wolk ’n vlak brander, ’n sandbank, wier en bamboes en uitspoel op die strand met ons koppe in die son en ons voete in die donker, die een punt nat, die ander pant droog ons longe gevuur met suurstof maar ons skubbe blink met die boodskappe van die diepsee, gepoleer deur borrels en die eenvormige beweging, geswiep van sterte en die gebiep en gepiep en getwiet van die res van die skool wat soms holderstebolder maal rondom ’n bal sardyne, soms vaartbelyn voortdruk na ’n plek honderd kilometer hiervandaan, soms, sommer in die nag, sonder rede uit die see spring, en glimlag vir die sterre, en dan weer terugplas in ’n roerlose bad waarin die fosfor gloei wanneer ek terug is, en die skuit omgedop bo die hoogwaterlyn lê, die spane veilig in die boothuis gepak, die reddingsbaadjie aan sy haak in die motorhuis hang, die hond gestreel is aan die wange en snoetmerke op my gesig blink, of die wieletjietas uitgepak is, en die doeanevry sjokolade uitgedeel, en die whiskie oopgemaak staan en sooie teug op die houttafel met die ou mesmerke kan ons dan op die stoep sit en oor die asemhalende agterplaas uitkyk na waar die son die papawersade teen ’n lae hoek tref ’n bottergat in ’n sproeierpoeletjie bad op die gras waar die hond nou rondrol, en ’n molshoop skielik roer en die buurt om ons brand met die gemeenskap van mense, braaivleisvure en kinderstemme, en dan, daar, kan jy my hand vat en my gesig na joune draai en my soen?
KOEDOES IN DIE HEELAL soggens skuif die son ons voete warm tot in die sy, waar ons strepe hang ons is bokke, koedoes in die heelal uitgesprei oor die koppe, die rante, hange, valleie, klowe, kranskoeltes, knope aalwyn, swart olienskadus en hierin wentel ons, saam, oor plaasdrade, teen wildheinings af op soek na oorspringplek, met ou bergpaadjies langs, om besembos en blinkblaar, oor suurpol en rooigras, verby klipstapel en rotshoop, die planete van dassies, rooikat, ystervark, vlakhaas, pofadder, bleekvlerkspreeu en ons kalm oë drink die wip van die uur aaneengestroom, onafgebroke nie as tyd nie maar as leeftyd by die koel fontein voed ons die aarde, en die aarde ons neuse raak aan mekaar en god, ’n skepping, lippe vol intieme elektrisiteit fotosintetiseer deur die somer, herfs, winter, lente ente pyn, seer van hart, korte duur, elle lang, tot vul wat uit die herd ontsnap die drade knip die gewelf ontglip ek kyk na jou en jy na my en ons bene lê die wêreld wit ons is bokke, koedoes in die heelal saans trek die nag ons toe ons vou ineen en hang soos vlermuise in die wind ons is bokke, koedoes in die heelal saans trek die nag ons toe ons vou ineen en hang soos vlermuise in die wind
EATING THE LAND (THE N1) (republiek) in hierie republiek van ons klou ons snags aan mekaar vas en hou elke droom by die brug aan die hand en stap saam met die nou pad na die blou lug en sing die stil gesang van wintervoëls weg in hierie republiek van ons met die donker hart en swaar gewonde geskiedenis en bloedspoor deur die wattelwoud en pyl wat ratel deur die longe en die honde onder in die kloof wat spoorkry en vat en nes uitmekaar pluk en kis, spyker en hamer vind die hand van die volk in hierie republiek van ons dryf die busse en die karre vol kinders onderwater en waai die blaaie van die boeke verdoof deur die gange van die skole waar die woorde op swartborde staan en stol in hierie republiek van ons rol die tolbos deur die dorp met ’n naelstring agterna en tarentale skreeu en skrou hou die dag terug hou die haan plat hou die stom stil dek die storm op die tafel onderhuids of bo-op beens in die vleis en spier en siel van die elkeen hier verniel van die almal hier vermal van die mal en gek en doodnormaal in hierie republiek van ons is die steen des aanstoots steeds stadig aan die blom in die ploeg van die land om die drom waar die hande die vuur se verbande afskil en naderherd vreet en eet ieder en elk sy broer in hierie republiek van ons is die laaste kans die stadig dans deur die verkeersirkel vleg van die sterre en maan met ’n hond onder die arm deur die smeulende boorde van die selfmoorde en andermoorde en moorde wat nie eens bedoel was te moor nie in hierie republiek van ons die sagte glimlag van die laaste vrou in die tent van lig waaruit die poel ’n otter snoet en duik en wegdrup en wink en weeg en wik en wip en weg wink en weeg en wik en wip en weg waar die snoet van die otter wink en wip en wegduik in hierie republiek van ons, in hierdie republiek (eating the land) I roll away from the sea, and the smell of the Cape as the tide at the command of a moon yet to be named pulls me up the N1, past sleeping suburbs and early risers, headlights lashing yellow snakes along the wet road, yet I’m in a dusty dream, kicking my pirogue away from the quay at Mopti, Mali, on the colourful, warm, muddy banks of the Niger River, and I turn it downstream through the smoky Saharan sands towards Timbuktu with my lone passenger, a goat, looking at me with coin-slot black pupils floating in patient yellow orbs. Tonight, we shall read the scrolls together, and the stars. Sleepwalking, I fill up and buy coffee at the Engen Winelands where I wander the forecourt, like everyone else, just a hungry mouth atop time-fermented organs, watching the low clouds slink away as the sun tries to rise behind the mountains to the east. I remember Mali, it was a long time ago, but I remember handprints on rock walls, the damp darkness inside the Djenne mud mosque, the meal we ate with our hands on the dune. One journey is like the next in the way they loosen us from our skins, sometimes instantaneously the second you step off the plane as if you’re the meat of an avocado scooped from its previously known home. Or slowly, like an orange being squeezed dry until only a semblance of the outside remains while the inside has leaked out of your mouth and nose and ears and eyes and you evaporate – into, for example, the oven-hot, Wolof-speaking landscape of Mali where men, women, children, sheep, camels and Land Cruiser roam and within all this, that Mali, this South Africa, all of the continent and the globe of this earth which was blown from it by a nameless glass-blower, billions of time ago. I am alone entering the suffocating Huguenot Tunnel where I hold my breath for long minutes – I am in a James Bond film and I must make it through this underwater tunnel and on the other side my PPK must still fire and then I must duck and dodge a bullet and roll away but, as the sun hits the front window from a high angle, there’s none of that, no one-eyed, golden-handed villain, only the tall, skew skyscraper mountains and a change in weather, baboons picking up roadside bits, ticks off the land, tearing along the dotted lines, a stream topped with hundreds of white-sheeted unmade beds flapping along happily under which trout dart from one wet shadow to the next: Du Toit’s Kloof. Because I am alone my face is not mine, no-one who sees it knows it, and I am as good as a spy, embedded for decades here in the platteland, my stories unfolding on the brittle, fishmoth-travelled pages as the husband of many wives, father of many children, owner of many sins: a man who mows the lawn, one that spits and sleeps in rags under bridges, another whose chin is smooth and eau de cologned. I am air-conditioned, Platinum-carded and manicured but also dirty, diesel-coated and rolled in sand, I am the robber that stole the grapes and the farmer who stole the land and the burner of tyres and the tapper of rubber, I am Belgian and with a whip, I am the teeth sunk into the rubber tree in the Congo, into the rare earth pit held open by the invisible surgical tongs of the AK47’s in the Chinese, Russian, American, Australian and French-sponsored container office blocks beyond the uncoiled barbed wire of the cosy compound where the Wi-Fi helps me to pretend that I’m elsewhere, a friendly neighbour, the life of the party, donating money to the poor. In the mirror my eyes bounce into the blind spots of the car and on the landscape on all sides flickering its pixels at my brain, its rocks and trees, grass and lichen, houses and roofs, street lamps and cat’s eyes, bridges and pylons, signs and poles, fences and sheds, smoke and dagger – and the second is over and my eyes are back on the road, back on autopilot, back to peripheral vision with my hands here, the vital signs of the car all where they should be, a radio station breaking up and then hissing like water on a hot stove plate as I shimmy into the poort past Worcester, here is a siding called De Wet, there I have bought boxes of peaches, through the narrow, high cleft like the sight of a rifle, through which I’m shot into the hard lines of the Hex River, past De Doorns, up the pass and into the place where the land swirls between one foot in fynbos, another in grape farm and fold mountains, and early onset Karoo koppies, a glance at the Tankwa through a certain gap to the left, onion farms, solar mosaics, the Donkiesrivier, Touws River, Matjiesfontein, Boelhouer and then Laingsburg, where I observe the speed limit, dropping from 120 to 100 to 80 to 60 to a just in case 40 through town past the new chicken place on the left and then I hold my breath again as the car goes underwater, crossing the Buffels River under the 1981 flood-line where, should you stop here at night and unimagine all the air brakes and the hellos of prostitutes and the lingering smell of boerewors, petrol and tardust, you’ll feel the mud-drenched tug of the floodwater and the debris and bodies it carried through here, kolking by the bridge, pulling the walls of mud-plastered houses along, dogs, donkeys, goats, sheep, cattle, dominees, farmers, children, visitors, neighbours: some swallowed all the way down to the silt of the Floriskraal Dam to become fossils a couple of layers up from the Triassic era, when more suitably adapted marsh creatures inhabited the shores of the great inland lake of the Karoo: sheep-sized parrot-beaked tortoises, warthogs with scales, leguans both docile and angry at the rock they had been allocated. (droomsee) ver op die droomsee ontmoet ons in die golwe met ’n bak varsgesnyde mango bokkems en melk lê onder ’n laken tot die wind bedaar die blaaie en blaai die boeke en lees die verte nader met ons harte op die dek waar die meeue daaraan lek en die boegte fyntjies knaaf in die wier en mis en nag wyl ons kerse aansteek en dan met die hoofgemaal began en die fosfor en die sterre uit die ruimte en die spieël oproep en ratel klingel en klatel visweb uitsuig en komeetstert streel kieu, kop en kosmos-kleinte oer-atoom en ou peperboom die speld in die water die blom in die berg oer-atoom en die blom in die berg (eating the land) Now the car has settled in and has taken over the controls, and I sit back and ease along between the yellow and the dotted line, the land stretching like wings on either side of the road, lifting up at the tips, the primaries, where the vlakte rolls out to become mountain range and wisp of cloud to the south, where cool ocean air dares to show its face, but not to the north, for beyond that mountain lies more desert, more crows, more prickly pear overgrown sidings, and name boards to towns and farms riddled with rust-eyed bullet-holes through which the wind sometimes sings, to an audience of none, the song of the land touched by humans, once by stone, once by iron and net so gelaat staan. (die groot verstaan) net soos die hare op my arm regopstaan die son en die maan, die groot verstaan die water uit die poel opgedrink die voël met die tak rinkink die duiker in die kloof verdwyn die oumense in die stede aan’t kwyn slaan die weerlig die veld aan die brand en brand die berge die bome tot sand sodat die verlede se hande oopvou die son en maan, die groot onthou die son en maan, die groot onthou tot ’n beker aan ’n moeë mond die soldaat se bebloede wond die graf in die grond ’n reghoek uit die oond ’n varsgebakte koek die kombuis is waar die mense huil terwyl die winde buite huil hier is die hart vandaan hier is die groot verstaan die son en maan, die groot onthou tot ’n beker aan ’n moeë mond die soldaat se bebloede wond die graf in die grond ’n reghoek uit die oond ’n varsgebakte koek die kombuis is waar die mense skuil terwyl die wind buite huil hier is die hart vandaan hier is die groot verstaan die kombuis is waar die mense skuil terwyl die wind buite huil hier is die hart vandaan hier is die groot verstaan die groot verstaan (eating the land) And so I soar on the thermals, the car as the roving eyes of the raptor across the land of shifting thorns, the gravel upon which sheep subside, single-storey white-walled zinc-roofed buildings, some houses, some sheds, some tiny rooms in which generators used to thrum before Eskom came (the old people still hear them at night), and now also, besides windmills, the only other double-storey structures: cell phone towers, Telkom towers, Eskom pylons walking the land like a chain-gang of robots confirming our reliance on magic channelled from some other place, far from here to where we move, GPS-triangulated over the known map of our own making, visible to aeroplanes above, satellites beyond, and possibly the prying eyes of another civilisation eagerly awaiting our demise. At Leeu Gamka the sun belts down from above and from behind, from the sides and from straight ahead, and from below, where the tar is hot like the Danakil Depression. Everything is hot, the train tracks, the coins in the till at the Ultra City, the corrugated iron roofs, the eyes of a pale chanting goshawk glow like dots of coal, the cheeks of hitch-hikers hoping on a miracle emit a shimmer of heat so strong it feels like a train of trucks shuddering past. The road, the heat, the landscape – it is relentless, there is no respite, I am being swallowed by a boiling python. And then I enter Beaufort West, or is this Baghdad? Zombies drop their flattened cardboard box shields and charge as I slow down to stop at a robot, so I put my foot down, swerve to dodge their flailing arms and Molotov cocktails thrown half-heartedly, lethargically, hanging in the air like blurry, badly built suns – but then up ahead a trio of bakkies with guns (I believe they call them technicals in Somalia) mounted on the back appear and I’m trying to change the channel but I’m stuck on CNN or Al-Jazeera or is it a channel showing Mad Max or Starship Troopers or District 9? It’s all of them at once and a mortar misses me narrowly as I pull into the parking lot at the Steers and as I jump from the car and run to the door of the shop the cement bricks behind me are bit into by a rat-tat-tat of machine gun bullets from a rag-tag platoon forted in behind the bins at the western end of the forecourt. But the automatic doors swallow me and I’m safe, and in here the air-con half-works and the fridges are half-full with half-cold Cokes and Energades and I take a naartjie one and start drinking it while I order a burger and medium chips. Five minutes later I leave the shop and the forecourt seems clear, except for a small man asking me for money and a boy lying on his stomach and face by the side of the building, sleeping, or praying, or crying and I’m in the car and I reverse and join the main street traffic up past the church with its white epaulettes and then I slingshot around the circle at the northern end of Beaufort West and I’m back on the N1, ‘the country of our skulls’, the rear-view mirror soon showing the fading horsemen of the Janjaweed, dropping back like tired ghosts, saving their steeds for another day and another less watchful man. There’s a turnoff to a place called Nelspoort and I take it because I know though the town is now but forgotten except to train drivers who still pass through here, because a train track cannot be picked up and moved with ease, so their choice in the matter is small, and the people who call it home, who have no choice but to know it too, and the hard way, the way through the bottom of a bottle of beer or cheap wine or vodka or brandy or rum. But there was a time when Nelspoort was significant, when the only people who lived here – for the other inhabitants were animals, dassies and mongooses, lions and springbok, leguans and adders, rain frogs and pipits, hartebeest and martial eagles – would come from far away, they would walk from far away, to come here specifically, you could say in a way it was a pilgrimage, though the concept would’ve made no sense to them, for their god wasn’t a god in the way we know gods to be today, and in fact they didn’t worship a god but, in a way of seeing now – because we have to see from where we are now, because we cannot see the way they saw at all anymore, which is the biggest sadness of them all – they were all gods, and everything they touched were gods, what they ate were made of the fibres, sinews and cells of gods, and when they looked out across the land all they saw were gods: the smallest grains of sand were gods, the scraggiest of bushes were gods, thorns were gods, eland were gods, a lone cloud was a god, a tear was a god. And so when they came here as pilgrims they didn’t come to worship at the feet of a visiting, distant god, but they came to celebrate their own existence as gods in a country made for gods – not by gods, but made by time and the deft and accidental twists and aerodynamic nudges of evolution and chance, of the dice being shaken and rolled across the land to bounce off koppies and along the slight indentations of the Karoo to come to rest here at this place we now call Nelspoort but which they certainly called something else, something that might have sounded like many rain drops falling on animal tracks in a thick path of dust, or like the sound your teeth makes when you bite into a handful of spekboom leaves or maybe they called this place the name they had for the smell of liver, freshly cut from the carcass of a blesbok, now held aloft in your hand and about to be bitten into. When those people came to Nelspoort they brought with them their favourite memories which they proceeded to turn into what we call art but which they didn’t call art because art was unnecessary then and they took those memories from their minds and tongues and eyes and carefully chiselled them into the charred black outer layer of the dolerite boulders that litter the koppies and hillsides around Nelspoort. In that way, in our way of seeing, the seasonal gathering at Nelspoort was a kind of Venice Biennale, where around every corner you could see creation at work and so the shiny, almost oily boulders would reveal the giant buffaloes that once roamed here, their horns so wide they would almost not fit on the rock itself, or mysterious centipedes, fat balloon-like eland, or elephant shrews carved out to look like humans in disguise, and the humans themselves: some lone figures carrying bows, others huddled together making a plan, some in formation doing a dance while their shaman spoke his heart out of his mouth in little slices of blood so that the gods he or she knew to be the very ants and flies and antelope and predators of the land could understand him or her better. I drive through Nelspoort and park the car by the roadside about a kilometre beyond the last house. There is a small gate in the fence here and I walk through it and wait for my eyes to pick out the faint path between the rocks and shrubs and then I follow it to the back of a clutter of rocks. I climb up to the top of these rocks and sit there. I am now at the centre of the universe. In front of me lies a gong rock. You can’t see it if you don’t know what to look for. But I have been here before and someone showed me. I pick up a small rock that fits neatly in my hand. Then I strike the gong rock in one of the faint indentations left there by the people who left this place a hundred, or two hundred years ago, four hundred years ago, to never return. The rock rings with a clear tone, and the veld around me goes silent. I strike another indent on the flat gong rock which is at the height of a keyboard in front of me and again I can feel how everything around me moves closer, paying closer attention. A rock pigeon has diverted course to land ten metres from me, and now cocks its red-ringed eye at me, considering me as an alien maybe, or a lost man from a lost time. Around my feet lizards gather, and the curious triangles of dassie faces appear. At the crest of the ridge to my right the figures of baboons stand up, and they settle down with their elbows on their knees to listen as I play the gong rock. From where I sit and play, a vista stretches to the horizon. If it is the only thing I ever see in the world it will be fine. Everything that can be seen in the world can be seen right here. As the lonely notes of the gong rock ring through the afternoon air all that hear it is invigorated, succulents fatten their leaves, aloes point their leaves more particularly and the bat-eared fox family that paused five kilometres away find themselves entranced, their ears soaking up the rich fullness of the sound and in their hearts stir a previously stifled sense of purpose and urgency and they start making small howls and pawing the ground and jumping up and down: they have missed the gong rock, and now the gong rock is back, the gong rock is back. Back in the car I rejoin the N1, coast past Three Sisters and settle in for Richmond, Hanover, Colesberg. The sun is low in the west now and shadows flow across the landscape: the koppies like dark pools from which, in places, flaming tufts of grass, twisted firmaments of ancient dried wood (the paused thoughts of slow-moving creatures, century-spanning plants that can name-drop all the way back to the purest of times, of quaggas, blue buck, trekbokke and beyond even that), rocks that glitter and shimmer like golden motorcycle helmets in a 1970s movie, all jump from as if small fish, then dive deep down into the shade as the sun sets another tick, the light cascading off the horizon behind me – unchecked – off the coasts of the continent and into unmarked seas upon which it dances on the smiling snouts of dolphins, and the shadow of the car, bouncing on its unsure wheels which seem to want to leave its tentative hold on the surface behind to tiptoe unseen into the air, first a foot, then two, then ten, then high enough to float over oncoming traffic – a startled truck driver points wordlessly, to no-one, a Translux driver too, but to a half-blind old man who can’t quite see what he means to be shown – and into the last wash of light which now breaks lightly onto the shore of the oncoming night, here on the footprint and spoor strewn beaches of dusk, where the unused telephone poles, the twigs of the unmade crows’ nests and the limp spaghetti-string wires are the flotsam in the ankle-deep waves of thought as the car joins a small flock of blue crane for a few blissful seconds of perfectly synched, slow beat of wing and soft, steel-grey aerodynamicism before the illusion shudders and stalls as the wheel nuts of all four wheels come undone simultaneously, the engine falls from its block and I tumble down to the now purple warzone of a land below surrounded by different bits of automobile and I crash-land in a trench in the veld just to the left of the road behind a row of tall agave plants settled here half a century ago to curb soil erosion in those heady years just after the wool boom bust and the Karoo was left with magnificent shearing sheds, farmsteads, kraal complexes and grand entrances to farms with names given to them by the new owners of the land who got the distant descendants of the old owners of the land – not that anyone ever thought of owning the land back in the heyday of the gong rock (because what is owning? isn’t everything here? isn’t everything that is known held between the tentatively measuring claws of the praying mantis?) – to work for them by a trick of the pen, a quick draw of the line, a deft tumble of coins and brandy. Slowly I reassemble the car, and with it the parts of my body, feeling around in the dark, scrambling in the dusty, oily, bloodiness for screws and rivets, nuts and bolts though sometimes only finding sticks and stones, discarded barbed wire bits and rusted, flattened, burnt old tin cans, pieces of bent corrugated metal sheets – what’s left of a long-gone shack maybe, or an itinerant road camp – and shards of bone showing signs of gnawing, handfuls of slippery cartilage and hair, shavings of skin and plump, still warm organ, all mine, all fine, all reassembled and now roaring back up the road with sparks showering off the back wheels, the night dark and welcoming, a living coat of past and present, simultaneously peeling and wrapping itself, threatening to eat into the future with every hungry beat of the heart. I realise I have lost control. The car and I have been masticated, consumed, crushed, fermented and scatted out as one indistinguishable mass. Armpit and cubbyhole, femur and indicator paddle, rubber mat and big toe, dashboard and throat: the clawless otter has eaten the crab, crushed the oily sweetmeats from its egglike shell and left me – us, this – behind to mark a distant fencepost of its endless galaxy of crab pools, shiny springs where nothing but the earliest of mountain reedbuck or latest of robin ever catches even a glimpse of its thick, silky body wriggling along the kikuyu embankments or disappearing like molten lead in the moonlight held in the meniscus of the pond. Far below, the Free State flickers on: Gariep, Springfontein, Trompsburg, Reddersburg along the highway, and then to the sides, the scattered shovels full of coal, glowing in the brown, wintry night: Philippolis, Fauresmith, Jagersfontein, Bethulie, Smithfield, until Bloemfontein blooms bright and cheerful in the distance, which bring us to the Highveld, which is a shit place to be in winter. The Highveld is a big road flanked by roads and towns and cities and smoking chimneys and empty grasslands which are always burnt for our pleasure. I’m always in a car hands stuck in a cubby-hole fingers in a tape deck clothes to my seat dust and smoke the endless flavour of winter. There’s frozen dogshit in the suburbs where the mornings start white and frosty and the afternoons end white and crusty with streetlamps and Egoli on M-NET Open Time. I panic when I can’t see the stars I panic when the sun is a central smog and my direction is a stoned pigeon wrapped in a map. There’s tea and milktart from relatives in cages good people who sigh in their homes and lock their toilets and hide their doormats under their keys. In the flat parts of the Free State the weavers flock aimlessly under dimmed lights, build their nests dangling from concrete silos and steel pylons. Even in the marshes the reeds bend and break on their own under a heavy low sky waiting for the slime dam to sweep them into definition. Farming here is an endless wait for December rains an endless locking of gates to keep the cattle in and the locusts out and the violence in the paper. Little kids buy ice-cream and NikNaks from the One Stop and their stuffed cheeks full of sharp teeth clatter and glisten and laugh at roadkill. There are places called Florida and Philadelphia and Virginia in the United States, and Monte Video is the capital of Paraguay or Uruguay so why the fuck do they also exist on the Highveld? The people here are ugly in their cars and pretty in their bars where hands are for counting money, changing gears throwing signs and clenching fists. Life becomes a fiddling for frequencies in between disruptive factories for foreigners and the retracing of daily steps to All Bran Flakes and uncomfortable sex. You’re never on solid ground there are people everywhere digging out gold and hiding places and finding bad lungs and unexpected sinkholes in bathtubs. People think of murder when they eat in restaurants, they consider rape when they go for a jog while Golden Retrievers lounge in Northcliff and think of Alaska. The city is littered with untidy people who look at hands on the corners of tables and buildings with the reflection of a cloud framed by a neon triangle. The open veld is rare and littered with derelict pig farms and soot-filled sunflower fields with only remote aspirations of becoming Floro margarine. The cement is a passive smoker with filters growing on it like disorganised ticks and the red dust mixes with smoke at sunset to become sentimental gravel. I’m never here because I want to I’m a co-pilot, a navigator, a shotgun-sitter measuring the miles between historical sites and toilets for my mom. If you sit still for long enough they’ll steal your kidneys and while a friendly nod can kill you, a playful wink can cost you a weekend. If I stay here for too long I’ll become an active abuser a topflight loser a successful gimmick or a professional skunk with labels and a mean piss. The Highveld is a shit place to be in winter. We lose altitude and slowly descend, alighting back on the N1 with the touch of barely a feather back on the road, which I now realise could be what tears us apart, and that all to the sides of it lies the black abyss of what once was – that is, if the sun will never rise again, that is, if we are all already dead, that is, if the country of our skull has filled with clear rainwater and is begin held aloft atop an outcrop overlooking the confluence of the Limpopo and the Shashe rivers – for that is where the road leads, through the Verkeerdevlei Plaza and Kroonvaal, Grasmere, Pumulani, Hammanskraal, Pienaarsrivier, Kranskop and Capricorn, through the spinning dervishes of Johannesburg, the meted out mundane of Midrand, the ridgetop strongholds of Pretoria, and all the towns that follow, some more broken than others until nothing remains but a deep, dreamless sleep from which the questions rise like smoke seen from a distance, leaving a homely chimney like birds: Where am I? What am I? Where am I? What am I? Where am I? What am I? Where am I? What am I? Where am I? What am I? Where am I? What am I? (En in die skaduwees van kremetartbome, in the shade of a baobab, waar ek vassit aan lemmetjiesdraad of ’n haak-en-steek, deep in an aardvarkhole, sitting somewhere on a comfortable chair, driving at night, brights, dim, brights, dim, and the radio playing, and the radio playing and the news coming and going and the weather forecast and the sports result and something about the rand, and the night on all sides, and the road, the road that keeps going beyond Polokwane, beyond Louis Trichardt, beyond Musina, beyond Beit Bridge, beyond Masvingo, beyond Harare, onwards to Vic Falls, onwards to Lusaka, Kapiri Mposhi, Mkushi, and Mpika, and Mpulungu, and Sumbawanga, and Mbeya, and Matubaruka, down towards the coastal flats to Dar es Salaam, and beyond on a dhow into the blue sea, beyond the furthest wave, towards where the sun rises, and the music and the words and the stories slowly run out and sink down and filter down to the bottom of the sea to the bottom of the sea to the bottom of the sea to the bottom of the sea to the bottom of the sea to the bottom of the sea to the bottom of the sea to the bottom of the sea to the bottom of the sea)


The Buckfever Underground return with their latest release, a live double album Last Days of Beautiful (Tracks 1-8) and Eating the Land (Track 9).


released March 3, 2019

Recorded live by Dirk Hugo, July-September 2018. Tracks 2, 6 and 7 recorded live at McBains, Bainskloof. Tracks 4 and 8 recorded live at Darling Voorkamerfest. Tracks 1, 3, 5 and 9 ('Eating the Land') recorded live at The Alexander Bar & Theatre, Cape Town. Mixed by Dirk Hugo. Mastered by Simon Ratcliffe at Sound & Motion Studios, Cape Town. All songs copyright of The Buckfever Underground, 2019. All words by Toast Coetzer. 'Eating the Land' originally written for 'Vehicle' by Gerhard Marx. All music by The Buckfever Underground. Published by The Buckfever Underground. Design by Alice. Photos by Toast. On this record, The Buckfever Underground are: Toast Coetzer (vocals, lyrics), Stephen Timm (drums, synth) and Michael Currin (guitar). Thanks to Dirk for making this with us. Thanks to all our friends and fans for sticking around with us for 20 years. You can find traces of us on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram and - Bier & Vryheid. Vir Drikus.


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The Buckfever Underground is a South African spoken-word band. They perform poetry in English and Afrikaans with experimental music. Current members Toast Coetzer (vocals), Stephen Timm (drums), Michael Currin (guitar). Founder member: Gilad Hockman. Also: Jon Savage, Righard Kapp. Founded in 1998. ... more

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