A BLACK MAN ARMED WITH A SPEAR CAUSED A COMMOTION DURING YESTERDAY’S EVENING RUSH HOUR BY PROSTRATING HIMSELF ACROSS THE MOTORWAY WHICH HAPPENED TO RUN THROUGH THE MAN’S PLACE OF ABODE.
Drivers struggled to avoid the man.
The man was under the influence, according to police.
But what does that mean, ‘under the influence’.
A good question, actually, it’s such a broad concept.
Under the influence, he appeared aggressive and confused.
It took some real effort to finally apprehend the man.
The police had to resort to physical violence to handcuff him.
It’s hard to imagine that he is still alive so let us pray.
day(dream) # 12,868
I draw a picture with my coloured pencils.
A square house a couple of hours’ drive from the coast.
A pretty roof on top, there’s still some people to be added
who don’t look sad, nor happy, one of them at least.
Outside a car slamming on its brakes.
Also a deep ditch in which you can drown
with mudfish and a doll drifting around.
And flowers towering along the banks.
Gaping like rubberneckers.
I hear a door slam, shouting, bellowing –
that’s the wind, it’s only the wind
this is already my tenth attempt
the house has neither windows nor a door, though
it can’t be all that difficult.
It was a scorching day, I remember that much.
The roof was red.
SHAKA WHO SLEEPS WITH HIS SPEAR.
Birds, butterflies, everything that moves dies under his gaze.
He would lose dramatically in a free election.
Anyone who loves him, he sends on a hopeless mission.
To die on the way
or to return, emaciated.
And then those questions and those orders.
Bring that mountain over there to my house.
Bring me an edelweiss.
How much is 33445678 times 17578798906 divided by 21.
Who was originally going to play the male lead
in Gone with the Wind.
What am I thinking about right now.
No one has an answer
or can comply with the instructions, aside from two or three –
who end up dying too.
The press room remains empty.
The headquarters deserted.
No one to sing of Shaka’s deeds
the fire is dying fast.
Blow dear subjects, blow!
Alfred Schaffer (b. 1973) grew up in The Hague, the son of a Limburger and an Aruban. In 1996, he moved to Cape Town, South Africa to continue his studies and met his future wife. He returned to the Netherlands in 2005 and worked as an editor in Dutch publishing before moving back to South Africa in 2011. He currently works as a lecturer at Stellenbosch University. Schaffer is the author of five poetry collections and has won prizes in both Belgium and the Netherlands. His most recent collection Mens Dier Ding (‘Man Animal Thing’) was nominated for the VSB poetry prize.
‘A BLACK MAN ARMED WITH A SPEAR’ and ‘day(dream) # 12,868’ were first published in Modern Poetry in Translation 2/2016.
All originals are in Mens Dier Ding, Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2014.