Monday/ the crates of a life

My brothers and I have started tackling the sorting and categorization of the vast contents of my dad’s study.  It is a large room filled with book cases, filing cabinets, desks and drawers, and electronic equipment : a lifetime’s worth of documents, pictures, mementos and possessions.

The stuff has to move; our frames of mind have to move.  There is a classic Afrikaans poem that provides instructions to the movers – movers of different kinds.  I posted it in Afrikaans first, with below it my own crude attempt at a translation into English.

Aan die Verhuisingsmanne
Uit ‘Tyd van Verhuising’, 1975 – Ernst van Heerden

Dra saggies, vriende,
want sierpotte en erdewerk,
keurborde en fyn glas
sluit ‘n hele lewe
met sy drome
en verlangens in;

Dra saggies, mededraers,
want die drag
van veerbed,
tafels, lessenaar
druk teen die bors
se dun skelet;

Dra saggies, regters,
want die oordeel
oor my klein bedryf
lê vasgevang
in prente, boeke
en ‘n eie ou gemakstoel;

Dra saggies, gode,
want die hart se porselein
is broos en tot veel seer
en kwesbaarheid geneig:
die kratte van ‘n lewe
kan so maklik breek.


To the Movers
from Tyd van Verhuising (‘A Time of Moving’), 1975 – Ernst van Heerden

Carry softly, friends,
for vases and pottery,
choice plates and fine glass
encompass an entire life
with its dreams
and desires;

Carry softly, fellow carriers,
for the bearing
of feather bed,
tables, desk
press against the thin skeleton
of the chest;

Carry softly, judges,
for judgement
of my small industry
lie trapped in pictures, books
and an old easy chair;

Carry softly, gods,
for the porcelain of the heart
is fragile and prone to much hurt
and vulnerability:
the crates of a life
can break so easily.

4 Replies to “Monday/ the crates of a life”

  1. Besonderse gedig vir hierdie somber dae. Die lewe is inderdaad broos. Mag julle vertroosting vind in julle herinneringe van gelukkige dae met Christo.

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