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BISMARCK EN DIE TUINMAN
In die lou badwater voel ek
die drukkende somerhitte.
Dis of ek sweet
onder my papnat, gewasde hare.
Die sonbesies buite
klink soos ’n sameswering.

In die bad onthou ek vandag
my kuiers by Leon met die groot ore
toe ek 11 was.

Leon was ’n bedorwe enkelkind in ’n groot huis
met ’n swembad en ’n tennisbaan
en ’n klomp plate en ’n ouma
wat altyd tuis was
om koekies en koeldrank aan te dra
as ons Wham of Michael Jackson luister.

Op die tennisbaan
het Leon my altyd maklik geklop
tot ek eendag ’n set gewen het.
Leon kon dit nie hanteer nie.
Hy’t sy tennisraket op die grond neergegooi
en binne toe gehardloop.

Ek het onseker bly staan
op die vuurwarm tennisbaan.
Die kombuis se sifdeur het agter Leon toegeklap.
Die sonbesies het te kere gegaan.
Bismarck, hulle reuse-Rottweiler –
’n knorrige, opvlieënde bliksem –
was tussen my en die agterdeur.
Vir Bismarck was ek bitterbang.
Hy’t een keer na my gehap.
Ek het nagmerries oor hom gehad –
hy het altyd van agter gekom.
Met die grom en die omkyk
was dit te laat.
Sy kake het gemaklik om my ribbekas gevou.
Sy tande het in my vleis weggesink
soos stewels in modder.
Hy het my in sy bek opgetel –
ek kon my hopelose tennisskoene in die lug
sien spartel.
Ek was te bang om te skree.

Terwyl ek oor Bismarck angstig was,
het die swart tuinier vir my geglimlag
en gewaai.
Leon het my al vertel
hoe hy die tuinman bekruip
wanneer hy gras sny,
en met sy BB-gun skiet.
Ek kon nooit verstaan hoekom
die tuinman met my vriendelik is nie.
Kon ’n mens ’n verskil
tussen my en Leon
sien?
Ek het gewonder of die tuinman
net so bang vir Bismarck was soos ek;
of hy Leon gehaat het
soos ek hom sou gehaat het
as ek die tuinman was?
Dat die tuinman vir Leon eendag
met sy tuinvurk sou doodsteek,
was nie vir my onwaarskynlik nie.
Die somerhitte en my angs
het sy wit glimlag
tot ’n hatige gryns verwring.
Die bloed in my ore
was harder as die sonbesies.
Ek het naar en duiselig gevoel.
Niemand het kom help nie,
want niemand was van enige gevaar bewus nie.
Ek het vriendelik vir die tuinman gewaai…

As ek so bang vir binne
en bang vir buite
soos vandag in die bad dobber
weet ek nie hoe om uit te klim nie.

Buite patrolleer Bismarck die aarde.
Binne glimlag die tuinman
lewensgroot.
BISMARCK AND THE GARDENER
In the lukewarm water I feel
the heavy summer heat.
It’s as if I’m sweating
under my wet, waxy hair.
The cicadas outside
sound like a conspiracy.

In the bath today I remember
visiting Leon the boy with the big ears
when I was 11.

Leon was a spoiled only child in a big house
with a swimming pool and a tennis court
and a bunch of albums and a granny
who was always home
to serve us cookies and cold drinks
when we listened to Wham or Michael Jackson.

On the tennis court
Leon always beat me with ease
until one day I won a set.
Leon couldn’t handle this.
He threw his tennis racket on the ground
and ran inside.

I stood waiting uncertainly
on the blazing tennis court.
The kitchen screen door clapped shut after him.
The cicadas were going crazy.
Bismarck, their giant Rottweiler –
a growling, bad-tempered, real son-of-a bitch –
was between me and the back door.
I was dead scared of Bismarck.
He’d once tried to bite me.
I had nightmares about him –
he always came at me from behind.
By the time I heard the growl
it was too late.
His jaws encompassed my rib-cage easily.
His teeth sank into my flesh
like boots into mud.
He picked me up in his mouth –
I could see my tennis trainers hopelessly
darting through the air.
I was too afraid to scream.

While I was being scared of Bismarck,
the black gardener smiled at me
and waved.
Leon had once told me
how he liked to stalk the gardener
when he was mowing the lawns,
and shoot him with his pellet gun.
I could never understand why
the gardener was so friendly to me.
Could a person see the difference
between Leon and
me?
I wondered if the gardener
was as afraid of Bismarck as I was;
and did he hate Leon
as I would have hated him
if I had been the gardener?
It did not seem unlikely to me
that the gardener might one day stab
Leon through with his garden fork.
The summer heat and my fear
turned his white smile
into a hateful grin.
The blood in my ears
was louder than the cicadas.
I felt sick and dizzy.
No one came to help,
because no one was aware of any danger.
I waved in a friendly way to the gardener…

If I’m so afraid inside
and afraid outside
as today floating in the water
I won’t know how to get out.

Outside Bismarck patrols the earth.
Inside smiles the gardener,
life-size.