Peter Horn

A bloody cross against your name

In memory of Nomthunzi Mashebelele
murdered at the age of 5 years in Site C

O poeta e un fingidor.
Finge tao completamente
Que chega a fingir que e dor
A dor que deveras sente.

The poet feigns.
He feigns so well
That the sorry that he really feels
Becomes a feigned sorrow.

--Fernando Pessoa, Autopsicografia

A tremor runs across the black asphalt,
the hollow sound of a fruit that drops
from a twig: the silence of feathers
cut by a saw.

This day knows nothing about children
who were given a body to know the silent pleasure
to breathe, to live, they need to be taught: nothing.
They are: more than we can ever hope to be.

The evening extends across a line of fire
a barricade of burning tyres, suspended in the night,
freedom which breaks through the clouds,
while some people draw bloody crosses on white paper
to protect their silverlings.

A human face, this glorious thing, alive,
wanting to speak to us who are also mortal,
who can love and understand: we hear the step
of a shadow shoe walking home with paraffin. Forever.

At the age of five a bullet in this soft body.
Which is not yet, which is in the process of emerging,
music it is and words to become:
already drinking death with every breath.

The air gulped down, the last breath, hastily,
none left: our bread is poisoned
by those who draw crosses with pens and guns.
How will these wounds heal? Ever?

Dying. And the sand is cold that was warm only
yesterday, glowing in the sunlight.
Black with blood it is today. Boiling blood.

Copyright 1996, Peter Horn

Peter Horn teaches German and literary theory at the University of Cape Town.
Six volumes of his poetry have been published, including Poems 1964-1989 (Ravan,
1991, Noma Award) and An Axe in the Ice (COSAW, 1992). Another book of
poetry, The Rivers That Connect Us to the Past Survivors (Mayibuye, 1996) and a
volume of short stories, The Kaffir Who Reads Books (COSAW, Alex la
Guma/Bessie Head Prize, 1993) are forthcoming. Horn's poetry has been translated
into French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Xhosa and Tagalog. His essays
are collected in Writing My Reading: Essays on Literary Politics in South Africa
(Rodopi Press, 1994) and the forthcoming At the margin of one/many languages
(UCT Press, 1996).