The Poor Interred Corpses Of The Cape Flats

by Peter Horn

In the evenings, when the South Easter abates
in the plastic sheets of the squatter huts
on the Cape Flats the poor interred corpses
sink deeper into wet sand of the vleis.

Later at night there is a rain which falls noisily
onto the corrugated iron and all the blood
is washed away. The last drops fall cautiously
like the promise of futures into the sand.

When the wind is still and the rain
is a mere memory of drops from Port Jackson leaves
the darkness swims into the hearts of the sleepers
and makes them restless with undefined fear.
They hold their breath for minutes of silence
and know that something new is about to happen,
something good, something which was an absence
in their lives for hundreds of years.

Lines In A Grave Yard

by Peter Horn

That was the bad old time
when he lived: the time
when children died of
incurable emptiness of the stomach
and the country
had an elegant medical term for that.

That was the bad old time,
here represented in numbers which designate
the year of birth and the year of death,
now engraved on the gravestones
which have survived into our time,
and the stones begin to speak
about that disease which made children die.

The Cape Weather And The Five Year Plan

by Peter Horn

Like old men, the clouds piss
when they can no longer hold their water,
and the last pied crow
shakes its feathers in disgust
in the grille of tangled branches.

Leafless oaks hold their upturned roots
into a gale of leaden laughter
erupting from forgotten graves
clearing the skies to an icy blue
and yesterday's news is driven against the wire mesh
of our sieve-like memory: which Marx did you mean?

With chattering teeth the cracked skulls
caught in the grating of the sewerage system
repeat the slogans shouted with such confidence
seven long years ago at their grave side.
A solitary woman woven in the trellis of pain
her wrists broken, but alive, not like a runner
who has reached her goal, but not like a corpse either,
simply breathing in this wonderful new disorder
and creative chaos breeding under the sun
which begins to melt the snow on the mountains.

Images which speed across the spherical
splintered mirror inside my skull
in retrograde circles of dulled pain
while we spend our time,
skin, bones, meat on some brilliant white sand
a short span of time in an eternity
a life and two cv's on this warm winter's day
the sun above and the darkness below.

Mayibuye Centre

by Peter Horn

Some men and some women
stepped into the flash light
for one hundredth of a second
and lived in darkness for the rest of their lives.

Therefore we know
how they looked
who lived in the shadows
in one hundredth of a second
of the two billion five hundred million seconds
which made up their life.

About the Author:
Peter Horn teaches German and Literary Theory at the University of Cape Town. He is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Cape Town, in South Africa and is also a member of the Congress of South African Writers. Mr. Horn has had 6 volumes of poetry published, of which Poems 1964-1989, (Ravan Press 1991) has earned him an honourable mention in the Noma Awards for Publishing in Africa. His most recent volume of poetry, An Axe in the Ice, appeared in COSAW Publishing House in November 1992, along with a collection of short stories, The Kaffir Who Reads Books, which earned him the Alex La Guma/Bessie Head Prize in 1993. This volume will appear in 1996. He also won the Pringle Prize (1974) for an essay on poetry.

His poetry has been widely published in journals all over the world, and has been translated into French (Derriere le vernis du soleil. europePoesie 1993), Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Polish, Xhosa and Tagalog. He edited and translated a collection of South African poetry: Kap der Guten Hoffnung. Gedichte aus dem Suedafrikanischen Widerstand (1980), and published a volume of essays on South African literature: Writing my Reading (1994). A second volume of essays, At the Margin of One: Many Languages will published with UCT Press in 1996.

His published poetry volumes are: Voices from the Gallows Trees. (1969); Walking Through Our Sleep (1974); Silence in Jail. Poems. (1979); The Civil War Cantos (1987); Poems 1964 -1989 (1991); An Axe in the Ice. Poems. (1992); Derriere le vernis du soleil. europePoesie 1993; The Rivers that Connect us to the Past. Survivors. Poems. (1996). He is currently working on a volume tentatively called Intimations of Semi-Immortality.
The poems above come from a collection "The Rivers which connect us to the Past. Survivors" which will was published in 1995 by Mayibuye Publishers in Cape Town.

Peter Horn Department of German, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7700, RSA Tel. +27+21+650-2936 +27+21+696-1983 (H) Fax +27+21+650-3726 +27+21+696-1983 (H)