If I Should Tell You

By BREYTEN BREYTENBACH

If I should tell you they come to this place,
those who’d written out their lying lives, that they move
languidly yet deft like butterflies, one by one they come,
a movement in the penumbra, each with a shimmering
shield or carapace on the back stretching from neck
to the fold of the knees, and over the shield
a thin membrane-like cape, but it is as a darkened page
or a tanned human skin, you cannot read the faces,
the arms but protuberances and the hands
making helpless gestures of writing, black is the world
when there’s no more sun, dusky gesticulations,
high in depths of the universe meteors scoot,
up to the lip of this sombre cleft in the crust
plunging to subterranean valley-floors, and the faces
one last time lifted like those of dogs
who know not where blindness derives from,
meteor is metaphor,
write and write,
and then jump or flutter, and that down here in the slit
where movement is a final shiver you try to read the scribbles
on skin pages, dark strokes on butterfly-wings remembering
the journeys and loves of old battlefields, and see worded there:
“If I should tell you . . . ”

 

Breyten Breytenbach’s works include All One Horse, Mouroir, Notes from the Middle World, A Season in Paradise, Dog Heart, The Memory of Birds in Times of Revolution, and Voice Over.

[Purchase your copy of Issue 05 here]

If I Should Tell You

Related Posts

Image of a statue of a woman wearing a dress in white against a beige background, cover of Ama Codjoe's poetry collection.

September 2022 Poetry Feature: Ama Codjoe—from BLUEST NUDE

AMA CODJOE
When my mother was pregnant, she drove / every night to the Gulf of Mexico. / Leaving her keys and a towel on the shore, / she waded into the surf. Floating / naked, on her back, turquoise waves / hemming her ears, she allowed / the water to do the carrying.

view of valley from mountain

August 2022 Poetry Feature: Nathan McClain—from PREVIOUSLY OWNED

NATHAN MCCLAIN
Had I not chosen to live there— / among the oaks and birches, / trees I’d only ever seen in poems / until then…spruce, pine, / among the jack-in-the-pulpit / (though I much preferred “lady slipper”) / the tiger lily, milkweed, the chickadee / and blue jay, even the pesky squirrel

Park Bench

Translation: Poems by Juan de Dios García

JUAN DE DIOS GARCÍA
He speaks to us of Finnish lakes, of a dialect populated by birds and fruit, of high wooded hills, perpetual snow, a petroleum sky. “In the north they’re raised on melancholy,” he says, “and their dead weigh more than those from here.” He speaks of a Greek father and a war.