1

I have two half faces.
Two half faces.

Do what your Father says,
says the keyring,
and you will be safe.

And the empty snail’s shell?
The mouldy bread?
The box of condoms?

The rat poison? The weeping
party mask on the wall?

The glowing orange
on the sideboard?
The Unbreakable brand
comb? The gloves
she forgot in her rush?

Two half faces.

And the mistrust
in my twinkling eyes?
As strong as the impulse
to refuse all
responsibility!

The keyring says:
Do what your Father says
and you will be safe.

But the snail’s shell
echoes the god of joy
(and freedom):
Forget the difference
and you will find identity.


Clerks

The Roman Catholic Church intends
to do away with limbo,
I read in the newspaper.

The section of limbo
that accommodates the souls
of stillborn babies and unbaptized infants.

An alighting crow reminds
me of the remains found up the street:
lower body, tattoos included, fairly intact;

upper body unidentifiable,
head and chest deep black and riddled
with maggots (high on cocaine).

Of all birds it’s mainly crows
that make me feel there is another creature,
most probably a human, trapped inside a bird.

Another part of limbo accommodates
virtuous but unbaptized fellows like Moses
and Plato, Homer and Abraham.

It is not in the sense of reincarnation
that I believe that another creature,
most probably a human, is trapped inside a bird;

it’s not some pet theory of mine,
but a feeling in the face of which
I am defenceless.

It’s to negate the competitive advantage of Islam,
particularly in Africa, where infant mortality is high
(according to Islam dead children go straight to heaven)

that the Church wants to abolish limbo.
I toss the crow a grape, other crows descend
and in no time I am surrounded

by crows scoffing grapes. By people
trapped in crows scoffing grapes.
Clerks of the early to mid twentieth century.

41_18

Confession of Faith

On leaving the bar I heard
a painter say that astronauts
often grew up without a father.

I repeat: on leaving the bar
I heard a painter say that astronauts
often grew up without a father.

The same with prophets, I thought.
Muhammad, amongst others, grew up
without a father. On the way

home, it was night-time, taking
the shortcut through the park, I heard
a squirrel say your death will be

the first real thing to happen to you.
I repeat: your death will be the first
real thing to happen to you. If that is true,

I thought, then squirrels sometimes speak
the truth. I repeat: then squirrels
sometimes speak the truth.


Orchids

1

There are orchids that form
a more or less exact copy
of a female fly, wasp or bee.

The males zoom in
and try to mate with them —
pollinating the flower in the process.

2                   Two quotes, from the first and twenty-first centuries

Nature
the umbilical cord
has appointed us
wrapped itself
to be neither base nor ignoble

twice
but ushers us into the vast universe
around his neck
to be spectators of the mighty whole
pulling against
and keen aspirants for honour
his tiny throat

implanting in our souls
strangling him
unconquerable love
as he
for the elevated and divine
was born.

3

An ex, the spitting image of Mother,
told me about a doctor
and the small collection of foetuses
he wanted to be buried with —
according to his wife, his faculties
were declining rapidly.

The word became fertile,
so goes a Maori legend,
slept with twilight
and gave birth to night, the night
that ends in death.

Five foetuses. The priest
wasn’t having it — those foetuses
weren’t even baptized — but
he didn’t return the jars.

Strange that in creation myths
the god who falls to creating
is invariably surrounded by something else:
other gods for instance, chaos,
eggshell, primeval soup, the infinite.
It’s already started before it starts.

Several days after the funeral, the wife
saw freshly turned earth outside
the cemetery gate and concluded
that was where the priest had buried
the foetuses. Myth

trips along behind ‘nature’.
Theology shuffles behind ‘nature’.
Philosophy trudges behind ‘nature’.
And science?

I associate Mother with trees.
Sometimes, looking at her,
I get the feeling, the idea
that she’s a tree. I had it with this ex
too, though to a lesser degree.