Friday, 29 March 2019

Frolicking (Birthday poem for Richard)

I love late March and April - the time of dark and pale butterflies. When I lived in Simonstown, there were so many that they softly slapped your skin as you walked through clouds of them. Now again, in Hogsback, they create a happy fizz about the legs - they generally fly low, keeping close to the grassheads.

When I walked about this morning, in search of a photograph for a friend's birthday wish, a pair of them kept still enough to let me get close. One of them stayed long enough for me to get a solo shot. He let me come so near, my phone's camera couldn't get his face in focus!

I thank my friend for allowing me to share his birthday poem with you, so you, too, can joy in the feel of the butterflies.

Birthday poem for Richard 

Black butterflies
- on brambles and
on forest grasses -

- Silke Heiss, 28th March 2019

Closer and closer my camera came, but he did not stir.

Butterfly pair alighting.
Entymologists please note:
These "black butterflies" are the Common Bush Brown (Bicyclus Safitza Safitza), but the poem needs their blackness for lightness of sound. "Brown" followed by "brambles" in the next line would ground both the poem and the butterflies! Poetic licence ensures the poem's as well as the creatures' integrity, each in their own context.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

A fresh start - I'm done with fear

I'm stepping into my dear old blog (a good year old now) and at the same time into a new era in my own life.

The Parable of the Talents rings more loudly than ever at this moment: Matthew 25:14 tells Jesus' story about the servants who doubled their talents by investing them; and the servant whose FEAR of his Lord caused him to bury what he was given. His reward? He is "cast out" an "unprofitable servant".

It's as terrible a story as it is true. How does it relate, however, to me, and, who knows, possibly you?

Well, I don't know about you, but - can you believe it - I took a vow of poverty during my childhood: brainwashed by the books I read, I decided that having money condemned one, that it was impossible to be involved with money without being greedy. All the materially poor characters that populated the pages of my literature were pure at heart: like them I wanted to be! I was, quite literally, terrified of the effects of having money. I guess there is some sense in that, if you look around.

Still, what subtleties I missed! How foolish it is to confuse material poverty with poverty of spirit. The material poverty of the literary characters I admired was a FOIL for their richness of spirit, their sincerity and resourcefulness, their loving hearts.

Material poverty, I hope you'll agree, is one of humanity's inevitable burdens to bear; a burden that it behoves the materially wealthy to help carry; a burden it behoves all of us, rich and poor alike, to lighten communally by doing what we can to ensure that each of us has the few things that are needed to live a dignified and fulfilled life.

(By the way - on the topic of a dignified and fulfilled life: have you heard of Epicurus? I discovered his blissfully simple recipe on happiness in Alain de Boton's superb book, The Consolations of Philosophy - a must-read for anyone interested in life. Alas, that does not make all of us.)

Anyway. Back to poverty. It's spiritual poverty that's the REAL problem for humanity: poverty of spirit is, quite simply, an offence to the gift of life.

But what is spiritual poverty? Well, if you go back to the Parable - I'd update it into modern lingo and say that it teaches that to live in fear of being who you are, and to refuse to do what you know you COULD do; to refuse to MAKE SOMETHING out of what you have - however little that may be - it is THAT, which causes the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" the parable ends with - a beautifully grim description of the self-immolation that follows in the wake of bitter self-truths.

So. I'm done with fear. I'm abandoning the half-life I've lived, always kind of ashamed of what I know are my talents. The past one and a half years of pain and trauma have stumbled me into sharing my poems as never before, and finding them enjoyed by others to an unprecedented degree - so that now, for the first time in my life (old enough though I am to be a grandmother) I'm focusing without flinching on what I have to give, instead of FEARING that it's not going to GET me what I need to survive materially.

I've decided to invest in my poetry to the degree that I'm collaborating with an online marketing agency to help prepare towards the launch of Greater Matter in early October this year. I am breathing fresh air with the risk I'm taking. It feels good and it feels true. Yes, I could lose, yes I could fail, of course. I'm in any case such an old hand at failure that it's no longer scary at all.  But let fears NOT triumph over hopes, and certainly let them NOT stop me from trying my level best to reach towards the self I want and need to be: a self that wishes to give her late husband the biggest, most beautiful gift she possibly can: a book of poems celebrating her own emotional survival as widow; poems witnessing the good he gave me by the power of his love.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Round world

In the airport departure lounge,
queueing at the boarding gate,
my eyes skim the range of travellers -

two businessmen stand in their own electricity of discussion behind me;
an obese woman, in a sapphire-coloured gown, bats lashes;
a lush-haired man speaks gentle Afrikaans beside her ...

my roving gaze is arrested
by a gesture: a soft-edged,
hairless man's right arm arcs up and

over his stubbly scalp -
his fingertips drop
to stroke it, and then

his hand reaches easily in
to the loose, blonde strands at the neck
of the soft-edged woman on his left.

Several combing caresses rhythm him
- without a word or glance -
into her confidence.

My last look sees her
nestling into his shoulder:
a beautifully unhandsome couple -

toad-mouthed, both; relaxed; happy
in the roundness
of their moment's world.

- Silke Heiss, 13th March 2019

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Learning to stand!


those last months' refrain
is still in my head,
you tied to the bed:
"I can't get well
if they won't let me get up
on my feet."


- extract from What never was (After 'Five Pinecones' by Arja Salafranca), in Section 8 of Greater Matter - Facts of Blood

Gearing up for tonight's reading at Off The Wall at Roxy's in Woodstock, Cape Town, I'm looking forward to seeing my dear friends and brave editors, fellow Ecca poets Ed Burle and Jacques Coetzee, as well as OTW veteran Hugh Hodge: whose poetic midwifery started and nurtured me on the first leg of my journey 13 years back, as my poems slowly traipsed their way into more and more public readings. I'm also looking forward to greeting people I've not met before ...

I'll confess it here: it feels like a part of the journey of becoming me, as if my feathers were losing fluffiness, growing by some inner secret programme into sleekness and I'm learning to oil them by fluids I did not know before were there.   

It's a journey taken before by a million others, but, like any baby born, it's the first of its kind and will never be again. Learning to stand!