Five Poems

Translated by Alberto Manguel

From Poesía Completa.
Edición a cargo de Ana Becciú
(Lumen: Barcelona, 2001)


In the night by your side
words are clues, are keys.
The wish to die is king.

Let your body be forever
beloved space of revelations.

On Your Birthday

Receive this face of mine, imploring, tongue-tied.
Receive this love that I beg for.
Receive what is in me that is you.


Someone enters the silence and abandons me.
Now loneliness is no longer alone.
You speak like the night.
You announce yourself like thirst.


Tiny lady
living in the heart of a bird
comes out at dawn to utter one syllable

Being There

To watch from this room
where the fearful shadow is yours.

No silence in this place
but sentences you will not hear.

Signs on the walls
tell of the lovely faraway.

(Let me not die
before seeing you again.)


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Two poems

Snake in a bottle

Scaly and preserved in pink meths,

in a glass specimen bottle with a brass top,

the snake is marked by the stick

with which my father beat it,

in the moonlit hill

on that moonlit night.

He gave it to me.

Your prize, he said.

It’s a house snake, he said.

Ever mindful of accuracy,

and terminology,

and of schooling me,

he borrowed Fitzsimmons Snakes of South Africa,

from the public library in Market Street;

wanting to be sure that we had our facts right,

my father.

It’s a grass snake, he said.

I took his word for it, of course.

Until my cousin, nine years older,

came from America.

He saw the snake, in pride of place on the mantel;

after all, it still contained my father’s temper.

He lifted up the coffin, clear and pink after 40 years or more.

Smiling, he lowered his voice

so that my children couldn’t hear.

It’s a mamba, you know.

Tea in a glass

Zeida made tea in a glass

with a Russian silver holder;

swirled the leaves

in an already warmed pot;

used a strainer to prevent strays;

sliced pungent lemon

to lighten cinnamon water

to palest saffron;

added delectable honey

with a long-handled spoon;

lumped sugar in his cheek;

suctioned sweet liquid

through his lips

and sighed,

Ay a maichl

What a miracle!

Another world

from the herring brine

of home.

Hazel Frankel teaches English and Art and has just completed the MA in Writing at the University of the Witwatersrand. Besides writing, her passions are painting and calligraphy, formal and experimental. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband and has four children and two grandchildren.

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