Today I wrote an English poem. Now, while that might not seem particularly remarkable to you, it was my first attempt in eight years. I’m more comfortable writing these in Afrikaans, my mother tongue – while I speak both fluently, it feels to me that English is the language of my mind, and Afrikaans that of my heart.
Also, languages have personalities, I think, a certain flavour to them. Afrikaans is earthy, English ephemeral. English of the air, Afrikaans of the body. (This just my perception, of course.)
However, in the interest of personal development, and also for curiosity’s sake, I took a thought and wrote a poem about it in both languages. They are not translations of each other – I was curious about seeing what would surface, what would be different about each. I know that many of my readers do not understand Afrikaans, I apologise for the inconvenience. I hope you enjoy the English bit, though.
(I also apologise for the double spacing. It annoys the hell out of me but I can’t seem to find a spot on my ‘edit post’ to change that. If you know of any, do please let me know!)
It will be morning,
when I come to you:
the day will have sprung, wet
from the innards of a quiet sleep, like a calf
on new-birthed legs. It will be morning
when I come to you, yet
let us not forsake the night at once.
Let us not forget the tendrils of its breath;
its glistening flanks, its slow tongue,
and the tenderness of its wolflike embrace.
Let it be morning,
yet let us take the night with us.
As ek in die oggend na jou toe kom
dan is alles nuut; en ja kyk:
dit is goed.
Maar laat ons nie die nag verlaat nie;
nie so heeltemal
Laat ons oplaas
die slierte van sy asem in ons hande hou,
die teerheid van sy skuiltes,
die lyne van sy duister lyf.
Soos ‘n wolf
laat sy stiltes altyd in ons skadu bly.