Poem (in translation) by Johann Lodewyk Marais


Hippotragus leucophaeus

I want to let a bluebuck walk in my poem
Through the flat Cape grasslands before the introduction
of sheep in 440 AD
and our little history of shooting and shooting
for trophies to hang by our entrances
before the gunshot sound, wheels roll
and voortrekkers wagons moved deep into that hinterland
it was in small groups of just
dull blue, almost grey, that one found the bluebuck grazing
His head (brown in front and paler at the side)
he will lift decisively to look at rocks
and meadow all the way to that ragged
horizon where glaciers vigorously push
In the taxonomy of Smithers, he describes
(completely) small, pointed ears
pale coloured upper lip and those beautiful
ridged horns in their gracious
curve (see p 699).
The legs with stripes on the front
and that dark tail hanging down to its heel,
faded in a glass cabinet in a museum.
Then he steps out unconcernedly, innocent, out of that time
as if he comes loose of his salted skin
stuffed and invisibly sewn up
more real than out of the brush of Francoise le Vallant in 1781
From the trotting of the bluebuck over soft grass
and his tracks over those flatlands remains only
the taxidermy of the poem intact

Author: Johann Lodewyk Marais; Verweerdeaardbol (1992) [Degradation of the Earth]

Translation: Afrikaans to English kindly supplied by Michael van Beinum

For original in Afrikaans and Dutch: