Friday, January 25, 2008

Parting - Witsies Hoek, 1987

With sun and wind behind us giving lift,

We stand upon the hill and fly our kites,

Against the rising ramparts of the Berg.

Just cheap and plastic things. Mine wears an eagle

And his a sign unknown, and this I call the spirit.

They’re metaphors for the soul, I say,

Attached to the body by a shining thread.

This does not interest him. He wants to give

His kite more line. He’ll take it from my eagle

And climb to higher places in the sky.

A tricky thing to do with flying kites.

You have to hold the strings and tie the knots

Against the constant tug of void on soul.

Alright, Captain, I say. Go for it.

We steal the Eagle’s extra line and tie

Her handle on again. He adds the line

To his. There’s one knot left to tie when he lets

Slip. So much for Captain, he says.

We watch the kite soar up towards the cliffs.

It looks as if it wants to clear the Berg

And find its freedom in a higher land

Than ours, where kites are pulled at last to earth,

And travel back to Joburg in the boot.

Perhaps, like some of those detained, it feels

That death is to imprisonment preferred,

Or exile in a country far from home.

But in my hand the eagle tugs and calls,

And then we’re jumping down the grassy slope,

My focus split between two leaping feet,

And the tension in the line. The kite will fall

In any gap in my, or wind’s, attention.

What if the steep hill hides a mortal cliff?

But we both know what it is we want,

And so we’re moving fast and in control,

Down to the left where spirit’s tail

Points possible location of its thread.

We ease on down until the angle’s good,

And then turn right and up the valley, hunting.

Now line is firm and steady in my hand,

A steady pull from bird that sees its prey,

And leads me up the hillside to its fall.

Because then I see the eagle swoop and hang,

Lifeless, in a bright and cloudy sky.

I’m raving, winding, shouting up the hill,

It’s hooked, I shout, and wind the precious thread.

I pull them in. But then the eagle falls.

It lies, just plastic litter in the veld.

So I deduce from that that I’m a fool,

Imagining I flew and caught a soul.

The thread is slack and flaccid in my hand,

And tangled in the grasses of the hill.

I must untie the knots, and trudge back up.

Between us there’ll be only one to fly.

So, shrugging, turn to shout that I have failed.

And there it is. A vision, curving down

From edge of cloud it shines against blue sky.

It curves down, shining, till it meets the grass.

I shout. It’s moving past him as the kite gains height.

I shout. It’s there. The thread. It shines. It shines.

He does not understand. He cannot see.

It’s moving past behind him up the hill.

A change of light, and then it’s gone.

And faith with it. A beam. And there it is.

I shout. Behind you. It shines. It shines.

And then he sees, and runs to catch the thread.

I reeled my kite in from the earth, and he

I don’t know what from miles up in the sky.

It’s five and twenty years since it was done

And between us, only one to fly.

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