Featured Poem

The unhomely

the lane is a spine
the lane constructs itself up the hill
the lane exudes its fragrance with turpentine and pine, with balm
mulberry and spirals of pencil-blue cedars
and being from neither here nor there, she cannot begin to know
how blue green is
how olive the purple
how motionless the cypresses and the folds of their capes
as lightning sears the sky
and the earth rumbles back on the brink of grief

the lane is a castle
the lane is the only way to the castle
the lane intensifies into sweet chestnut and sage, white willow
sycamore and ash
and she from the marginals of the world, is not there to feel
how the broom rustles its fragrant earlobes
how a hue of saffron glides towards those talking in the twilight
how alive the dark is, how grainy the bolt
how bloody the wingtips of swallows flash against the morning sun
how cold a pear sings in a saucer on a table of granite
the very moment the castle sinks into a roaring gas-flame of midday trees

the lane shimmers like a knight
the lane marches up the slope
the lane preserves itself with maple, with oak, with lucern
buckthorn and elm
the lane feels the only decipherer of the abandonment of swifts
of how the barn owl lets its lonely chisel sounds slip
of how sparrows snip and snip deeper into gathered shrouds of dew
how milk thistle and chicory bleed blue butterflies
from their stems in the lane
how cicadas burnish the black figs
of how, from hand to hand, an ice-blue shoulder slides from the cross
and the unhomely fade into frescoes

the lane holds to the word: reign
the lane forms the self through the self
the lane knows that generations of Ranieris are listening
   down the stone passages to whose feet sound on the gravel
from beyond the lane she knows the lines are drawn
but is unaware whether its by bones lying around
in cupboards like weapons
or by dogs furiously storming towards the mauve smear of a hare
or the bursting of pheasants into flecked whirring buttons
or the devastating blonde scabs of recently mowed fields
smouldering behind the lane where some notes drift

the lane endures the sun
the lane absorbs all water all sap all power
the lane is a survivor – the cedars grow their hard silver tassels
the gnats rise like sleaze to the iron bars and deep slit windows
of the stone walls
but the lane, oh, the lane is impenetrable
as the group, leaning towards each other
with their worn-out hearts, knows
that among the concepts they discuss, she’s not even a shadow
she who undertook never to be sad in this world
is learning that beyond this beyond is another beyond
and beyond that, always, radiantly: the lane

Antjie Krog (2008)

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About the translation:
Antjie Krog
Antjie Krog
Original language:
Series 3 No.10 - The Big Green Issue

About the author

Original poet

Antjie Krog

Antjie Krog was born on a farm in the Orange Free State, South Africa in 1952. She lives in Cape Town where she is a Professor...

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Antjie Krog

Antjie Krog was born on a farm in the Orange Free State, South Africa in 1952. She lives in Cape Town where she is a Professor...

» Read more


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