Стихотворения Петры Мюллер на африкаанс и английском языках

CALIBAN, SY EILAND

Ek onthou hoe hierdie eiland gelyk het, destyds, met sy heerlike liane
waaraan ek met my hele gewig kon swaai,
sterk groen toue in boomgange vervleg,
en daar ver onder, agter die ingewikkelde skaduwees,
my skerm in die son, blond
soos ‘n jong vinknes,
en hoe ek van al die waters kon drink, en my
aan al die geure kon vergryp – en bo my, altyd, bont voëls
wat my met naam geroep het, en hulle neste vol van oop oranje kele
waar ek soms uit pure speelsug die kuikens uit my hand gevoer het;
want hulle is mos blind, totdat hul sien.
En dat ek ’n Ma gehad het, allesomvattend en stil.

Daar was niks aan Caliban wat lomp was nie, tóé.
Ek was ‘n aperige koning van die omtes, behaard, ja, maar vol van
ontploffend taal, my lippe gekurf om alles wat ek te sê gehad het
van myself.
Tot die klein speelding van ’n boot in die baai kom lê het, an dááruit
stroom meteens ’n optog wesens in fluweel en kant – allerlei teksture,
kleure en gebeurlikhede: ek het dit alles mettertyd leer opnoem,
klank na klank uit die hand van die listige magister
wat sy toneelstuk hier, hier opgevoer het onder groot gebare
en toe spoorloos vertrek het na beter gehore.

Ek onthou hoe die eiland gelyk het voordat ek alleen geword het, ek
wat nou soos water afstroom van een bobbejaantou na die ander,
verlangend na daardie kosbare primate
wat my babbelend van boeke en tifone verlaat het.

Die geraamte van die houtteater staan nog in die ooptetjie. Ek besoek dit
elke dag. Ek beruik dit. In raapsels van hul pragtige gordynstof

draai ek my snags om warm te kan droom.

Caliban’s Island

I remember what this island looked like, before, with its pliant lianas
from which I swung with my whole weight,
strong green ropes looping green trees, one after the other,
and far below, behind the intricate shadows,
my hut in the sun, as blond as a young
weaver’s nest
and how I could drink from all the waters
and could devour all fragrances,
and above me, always, dappled birds who called me by my name,
where I fed their nestlings – and they ate from my hand,
because, remember, they are blind till they see.
And I had a mother then, encompassing and kind.

There was nothing that was clumsy about Caliban, then.
I was an apish emperor, hairy, yes, but filled with an explosive speech,
my lips curved around everything that I had found to say for myself.

Then came that day when the little toy-boat came ghosting into the bay.
From it emerged a string of beings clad in mottled velvets and lace –
textures, colours, and occasions – I was taught these very words in time
by that lisping magister who performed his play here, using spacious
gestures, and then left without a trace for better audiences in other places.

I remember what this island looked like before I became solitary here,
I who flow now like pale water from monkeyrope to monkeyrope
longing for those precious primates who left me prattling
of their tempests and books . . .
The wooden skeleton of their theatre still
stands upright in the levelled dell. I visit it every day. I sniff around it.
I enter it.
At night I roll myself up in the remnants of its plushy curtains

to keep warm.

© 2005, Petra Müller
Publisher: First published on PIW, 2008

© Translation: 2005, Petra Müller
Publisher: First published on PIW, 2008

DAVID’S HANDS
You have the hugest hands and feet,
artefacts from spacious times.
Fire must have made you in a hectic moment
and along a swift trajectory.

You stand upright in museums, almost
at rest, veins bulging all over.
The Goliath’s boast
– which called your wrath into being –
has fled, but you listen still, your lids
drawn up from the bulbs of your eyes
while you fathom your reach.

When you were still locked
in that abandoned marble behind the Duomo
you were called giant.
Now you walk the city, compact and resolute,
looking for your next task.
When night falls, you emerge under streetlights
humming with your own strength,
flicking the little thong in your right hand.

And always the pebble goes round and round in your mouth,
like a man at the point of discovering speech.

I saw you there.

I ran home and rewrote
what I had written before.

GAUGUIN: NÁ DIE PREDIKING

Alles kan so skielik aan die vlam gaan – ek hou
skaars by by die rooie, die verbrande bruine,
verskillende terra-cottas. Siënna. Estaties opvarende
groene wat daaruit voortkom – ‘n groen wat lyk of dit bloei,
maar ook blom. En die bome, in die agtergrond
die bome staan eers afgetrokke soos ikone, dan weer verstrengel
en vervleg. In wat? Met wie? Ek sien al dae lank

‘n mank man met ‘n engel stoei. Daar is water naby, ek
ruik dit, ‘n mens sou dit kon verbruik vir heiliging.
Maar die fries geboë nonne bind hul wimpels om hul wit
gesigte vas en hou hul ver van my. Ek wou nog inkyk, daar,
wat aangaan in hul oë. Moontlik visioene . . .

© 2008, Petra Müller
Publisher: First published on PIW, 2008

GAUGUIN: AFTER THE SERMON

Everything turns to flame so suddenly – I can
hardly keep up with the reds, the burnt browns,
the various terracottas. Siënna. Ecstatic green flares
rising from the red . . . a green that bleeds
but also blooms. And the trees, in the background,
the trees at first appear abstracted like icons,
then twined again, and braided together.
Into what? With whom? For days I’ve seen
a cripple and an angel wrestle each other down into
the browns of an earth. In the far invisibility
something shimmers – there must be water nearby,
I can smell it, one could use it to sanctify.
But the hunched nuns tighten their wimples
around their withdrawn faces. They lower the lids
on their eyes. And I had wanted to look into the hoods.
Scrutinise the unseen. There must be browns there, even
possibly, blue. Visions, maybe . . .

© Translation: 2008, Charl-Pierre Naudé
Publisher: First published on PIW, 2008

VAN DIE OPWINDING VAN OORLOG

Harald vertel: Ek en Schrumf het as knape buite Hamburg
bedags oor skroot van uitgebrande tenks geklouter
– ons het elk ons eie tenk gehad – en snags in swart bunkers
geslaap sonder dink aan huis toe gaan;
my ma was reeds dood en my pa ’n soldaat aan ’n front.
Ons het met ons hande geëet wat ons op die hoewes
kon vind, aartappels uit die grond gegraaf, duiwe gebraai
nes julle boerseuns hier, en die vleis met ons tande
van die beentjies afgetrek. Dit was taai en goed.

Daar was meer soos ons, ondervoed, rats en slu.
Gesag was daar nie meer nie – ons was heeltemal almagtig
waar ons was. Eng gemeganiseerd – ons had ’n roeserige skurfte
oor ons, van die ou metal.

Ons het ook alles geweet: wie se vliegtuie oorkom,
watter soort bom . . . Ons het kodename vir onsself bedink
uit ’n halfverbrande geskiedenisboek. Daar was ’n Joodjie
tussen ons – hy kon Russies verstaan. Verbissen het ons
hom genoem. Maar sy kodenaam was Titaan. Hy het,
ná die oorlog, metaalsmid geword. Eendag het hy
met verhitte yster ’n Jodester
op sy eie arm ingebrand,
om nooit te vergeet.

MICHELANGELO’S MARKSMAN

Those were fully worked words
which you held in your hand; in your hand you weighed
them for their density. All pebbles are round.

When you lugged them
they broke the skull which caught them
neatly in two.

Out poured the soft grey stuff
from its fragile web
which had contained that century’s best boast
up to that moment.

No, you said to the giant, I had not intended
to kill you, merely to make things
perfectly clear. What a lad you were!

Now I keep remembering how you worked
that spillage, and you a poet, at that.
I should have noticed how your eyes bulged
in their sockets.

When I get up in the morning, in my century,
I am translucent like alabaster
with what you would call notforgetting,
Ruonarotti.

I am porous where the light strikes me –
a milky interrogation.
I begin to see through myself. I know
that word, that piëta.
Very close to my own – are you
my sculptor or my stone?

© 2008, Petra Müller
Publisher: First published on PIW, 2008

VAN DIE OPWINDING VAN OORLOG

Harald vertel: Ek en Schrumf het as knape buite Hamburg
bedags oor skroot van uitgebrande tenks geklouter
– ons het elk ons eie tenk gehad – en snags in swart bunkers
geslaap sonder dink aan huis toe gaan;
my ma was reeds dood en my pa ’n soldaat aan ’n front.
Ons het met ons hande geëet wat ons op die hoewes
kon vind, aartappels uit die grond gegraaf, duiwe gebraai
nes julle boerseuns hier, en die vleis met ons tande
van die beentjies afgetrek. Dit was taai en goed.

Daar was meer soos ons, ondervoed, rats en slu.
Gesag was daar nie meer nie – ons was heeltemal almagtig
waar ons was. Eng gemeganiseerd – ons had ’n roeserige skurfte
oor ons, van die ou metal.

Ons het ook alles geweet: wie se vliegtuie oorkom,
watter soort bom . . . Ons het kodename vir onsself bedink
uit ’n halfverbrande geskiedenisboek. Daar was ’n Joodjie
tussen ons – hy kon Russies verstaan. Verbissen het ons
hom genoem. Maar sy kodenaam was Titaan. Hy het,
ná die oorlog, metaalsmid geword. Eendag het hy
met verhitte yster ’n Jodester
op sy eie arm ingebrand,
om nooit te vergeet.

© 2008, Petra Müller
Publisher: First published on PIW, 2008

ON WAR AND EXCITEMENT

Harald tells me: We were lads then, Shrumf and I, we
lived in burnt-out tanks outside Hamburg. We
each had our own tank. By day we clambered about, by night
we slept in pitch-dark bunkers, with no thought of home.
My mother was already dead and dad was a soldier on a front.
We ate with our hands what we could find on the fields,
potatoes we dug from the ground, and doves we’d grill
on an open fire just like your farm boys here, and with our teeth
tore the meat from the bones. It was tough, and good.

There were more of us, underfed, agile and sly.
Authority was no more – we were altogether almighty
where we were. And mechanised – coated
in a rusty scabbiness, from the old metal.

We ate war. We knew: whose aeroplanes were overhead,
what type of bomb . . . we had code names for ourselves
gleaned from a half-burnt history book. There was a Jewish
amongst us – who understood Russian. Verbissen we called him
but his code name was Titan. After the war
he became a metalsmith. One day
with a whitehot iron he burnt
the Star of David into his arm,
lest he ever forget.

© Translation: 2008, Petra Müller and Charl-Pierre Naudé
Publisher: First published on PIW, 2008

Translator’s Note: Verbissen: the stubborn one

Rather than a direct translation, this rendition of ‘Na die Opwinding van Oorlog’ is a collaboration between Petra Müller and Charl-Pierre Naudé.

SLOW MOTION

You await me always at the end of my sentences.
You are like death: I am
always moving towards you,
an infinity of inches.

Surfaces count. I will get to know you
in blindness and slime, like a slug
when it knows the earth at last,
that is, from belly up.

There is a moment, not due yet,
when I shall turn you into me
with a gentle, inward gesture.

Now that I have taught my eyes to read
my own meandering script
I see that I carried your name in legible letters
from the bloody slew of birth.
It was a long time coming.

There is something about time
which I must describe here with my hand
clutched round a pen: It can happen to one
in the shape of a man.

© 2006, Tafelberg
From: Night Crossing
Publisher: Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2006