by Heidi Grunebaum
To the top of Franschoek pass
we drive and on to the Overberg:
Villiersorp and Grabouw.
Only silence speaks through the broken landscape
through quilted miles of its velvet blossom promise,
apples, peaches, apricots, plums.
Until fields greet aching azure mountains,
early twilight shadows casting purple rays
over waterfalls as they silver towards mountain pools.
There the earth’s beauty shrinks,
shiny Landrovers whizz through dust and denial
towards nostalgic architecture,
Cape Dutch homesteads.
We pass by sardine-can reserves,
backyards of human life called “labour”
by those whose power to name mutes from history
the late-night hands that work the land;
the moon-filled songs of sadness, wine-soaked longings.
Ever-walking legs trudge with water, fire-wood,
tired women, children too small to walk,
bearing memories too sore to speak
and dreams and chattels strapped
to the enduring backs of ancestors:
chained to these patchwork acres, an endless death
whose harvest profits the shameless hunger
of white Wabenzis and captured treats.
Through history, tarred over by the highway,
we drive back towards the obliterating city.
Dunes of unmoored sand roll by,
this emasculated land unseeded of hope
or the promise of orchards, heavy and ripe
or lazy Sunday strolls; past flickering, zinc-chained shacks –
here board, there cement – this ‘development’,
“poverty reduction” by those whose power to name
keeps stolen profits in new and old pockets.
Until finally the great mountain, immaculate sentinel,
rises up from the misty rays of the last day’s sun.