The Chestnut

By Charl-Pierre Naudé

Translated By Charl-Pierre Naudé

“I was angry when I realised I had been lied to”
Rachel Zadok

A writer speaks
about her unwitting bliss
as a child under the reign
of propaganda and the shame
of apartheid –

doubtless,
a time of bad intentions.

She relates how she felt anger
the day when she realised
“they had lied” to her all along.

But what evil is there
that needs bad intentions
if it’s sincerity that disposes?

Evil Intent, the hated creature,
was ambushed and shackled and chained by the Crusaders,
who dragged him through the streets
and hit him with sticks until he grew scales,
the hairy old circus virus,
pulled by it’s lead and forced to dance,

the stuffed pet Satan, the overweight Beast.
Slice the damned chestnut!
So that it can grow hair and bleed
from its squeeking kernel –

yes, looks like it’s bleeding …

Poor, poor
bad intentions.
They are but only what they are.
That seems to be their nature.

What about the thing
that isn’t true to its nature?
That must be a greater worry.

Let’s not bother the bear
about its outsize toenails.
And voodoo dolls don’t dance
from having any choice.

I cherish a memory
of my dear father, sitting in a taut bow of light
coming from a reading lamp and radiating
over his book, as if washed clean by lye,
white like a turnip just pulled from the ground:
“Treblinka, Auschwitz, never must this ever
happen again.” – mumbling, in the corner …

the whole world at home
while the pressure cooker whistles faintly
in the kitchen

where millions died in stages,
without leaving any corpses.

It seems all that is needed
for whipping up a bloody slave procession
and new skeletons in the harnesses;
for those small envelopes that seal a dying universe,
and the pestle that squashes God like a cell,

is one,
just one, single
sincere human being.

And of that kind today
we have more than enough.