thanks, frank o’hara
I am not an engineer. but I studied
to be one. those days, the ’60s, we
went to varsity in shorts and long socks and
threw paper aeroplanes in class. chem.eng.
was a tough course. the theoreticians did well
but the real engineers, the guys who drank beers
and fixed their own cars, failed.
we did a lot of maths
and a lot of chemistry. then in 3rd year the maths
mated with the chemistry, generating monstrous equations,
which we had to solve.
what was insoluble was when
they took our class to modderfontein and sasolburg.
dressed in white coats and plastic hats, we looked at miles
of hissing pipes and bulging orange flames.
so I became a writer.
no, I first became confused.
I remember the day I fainted.
I thought, “I join the universe!” my knees gave way.
my head hit the concrete floor. my being
took off with heavy flapping into a sky
which kept on moving through another sky.
Robert Berold has published four collections of poetry, a memoir of a year spent in China, and a biography of the pioneering Lesotho farmer JJ Machobane.