Lifebelt Post
by Sydney Clouts

Horizon approaching, wave
by wave in the million
crumples before the placid gull reflects.

A steep stone scaled
abruptly by the salt, remains.

But that old timber with its hook
of rusted metal black with sorrow, tilts
and falls
and ends its epoch.

Fallen, that power of things
which none needs give to things:
when I laugh shall the leaves laugh?
when I walk into a room shall all
its objects be accomplices?
or walking out are stars not stars enough
without this heavier multiple of grief?

Good morning, child
good morning, child so clear
whose limbs are dark with light.

Earth, Sky
by Sydney Clouts

I walked with a flower
stuck red in my coat,
it flamed for an hour
and then it went out.
The hilltop above me
shimmered like stars,
the houses passed me
they were white upon white.
Then the dark came around.
I thought of my child,
his body a flower,
his heart like a star.
And the dark came around.

I put down the flower
and I walked on my way –
it is surely there still
but not as a flower.
And I thought of my child
who has come from the dark:
from night of the sky
from deep of the ground;
and I thought of my child
till the sun came around,
till the sun came around.

Prescriptions
by Sydney Clouts

For the unreflective,
pepperpots
to sneeze out ignorance or to at least exhaust it;
for the ethical,
tobaccosmoke; for fools, shipsirens
returning to the sun
some of its intensity.

Pampoen the Moon was gobbled up
O koud is die windjie en skraal.
The bitter stars
I’ve tasted them,
My backside is mos kaal.

For the ill-willed, oranges,
whose juice pities all;
for the spirit strict
as dust of Namib,
watercress wilder than purity and just as pure;
for justice
for justice
humaniores res humanae
bright as the day.

Of Thomas Traherne And the Pebble Outside
by Sydney Clouts

Gusts of the sun race on the approaching sea.

In the air Traherne’s Contentments shine.

A jeweled Garden gazed at him.

What shall be said of Paradise?

Obscure vermilion heats the dim pebble I hold.

The long rock-sheltered surges flash with spume.

I have read firm poems of God.

Good friend, you perceived bright angels.

This heathen bit of the world lies warm in my palm.

Roy Kloof Went Riding
by Sydney Clouts

Near a field overflowing
with barley I ride,
my mother embroiders
and lives by the sea.
Small money she makes,
with shimmering tones
of a tower on top of a distant hill
and combs of water sharp and still
and sprinkled cherries made
the size of blood.

On Sundays I visit
my father, he greets me
with sombre surprise;
and sometimes, and terribly,
laughs with such pain
that his stubbled morgen
carry the sound from stone to stone
and strike it through my marrowbone.
His second wife restored
his faith in God.

I have a small house
and a gentle child,
a young wife’s care
and a good field;
the season of berries
and vines I love.
But the hill I climb has a heavy tree
that surges with quarrels and darkens me
to a desperate mind that throws
torn light as it grows.

Within
by Sydney Clouts

You look long about you
intent on the world
on a midsummer day;
the sea flames hard
it is rumpled like tin,
the sun is burning
dimension away.
If you cast a pebble down
it will clatter on the waves,
your eye can not go in.
And it cannot find a tree
standing generous and full
or a house or flower
with individual power;
and it must not look within,
hardness afflicts you,
flat is the world you’d find:
a row of wooden rooftops
that can easily topple
and bring the heart down
and bring down the mind.

Intimate Lightning
by Sydney Clouts

Too succulent for quinces comes
this fresh quo vadis,
Africa

the bud
the blossom
the scent
the intimate lightning.

Tusks traded for cash lie somewhere staling under hessian,
to be fetched for another buyer at the coast.
Tusks, skins, rhinoceros horn.

What I want, Zambesi’s
abler darkness fools with:
the full penetrant
eye, and more, much more:

eye in whose obstinate dusks and rains
the forest opens;

truths of the long lianas tense with dew.

It promised these
once, but lost them
in me. I
now, in a scooped log, ride
upon More, More, the River of the Night.

Karroo Stop
by Sydney Clouts

A whole
trainful of coal
like a soul
burnt black in a hole
or tunnel, passed us slowly.
We were halted in our carriage. The roll,
roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll,
dragged painfully, each truck like the goal
achieved, yet still this kept control
of each eye.

A horse and a foal
beyond were meager to it, coal-
black horse and foal,
and far-off clouds stroll white
in little mounds, and the coal
in mounds and piles that crawl
and crawl.

A sigh, a grunt from us all,
with one exception: I saw patrol
like a mole
underground, through walls
of skewer patience, cold and fire,
an old old
man’s sharp smile, an old
man wrinkled small
with teeth like coal.