Breyten Breytenbach

1939 / Bonnievale, Western Cape

In a burning sea

how often were we wrapped in coolness on the floor
the smell of turpentine and fire
the canvases white to our empty eyes
night's indifference
and the moon a smile somewhere outside
out of sight
days decompose like seasons beyond the panes
leaves of rain, a face, a cloud, this poem
I wanted to leave my imprint on you
to brand you with the flaming hour
of being alone
no fire sings as clear
as the silver ashes of your movements
and your melancholy body
I wanted to draw that sadness from you
so that you might be revealed
the way a city opens
on a bright landscape
filled with pigeons and the fire of trees
and silver crows also out of sight in the night
and the moon a mouth that one can ignite
and then I wished that you could laugh
and your body bitter
my hands of porcelain on your hips
your breath such a dark-dark pain
a sword at my ear
how often were we here
where only silver shadows stir
only through you I had to deny myself
through you alone I knew I had no harbor
in a burning sea
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