Nature of life


1 Becoming vague

2 Becoming whole

3 Beginning ending

4 Beginning to think under the bleeding tree

5 Behind her mind

6 Being in love with a bone

7 Belonging

8 Bite day

9 Blown a bit out of myself

10 Blue-eyed boy

11 Bodies and minds at work

12 Born in the RSA

13 Born with clothes

14 Breaking rigid thought patterns

15 Buie van die geliefdes

16 Burning love

17 Butcher’s wife

18 Canine religion

19 Changing my mind

20 Charged

21 Body of the city

Dark city



Becoming vague

How well ordered

is my glass

of Shiraz.

How beautifully

all the different molecules

are put together:

water, acids, sugars, odours.

How well balanced

it all is

to meet my tongue

in the arched hall

of my palate

to bring the gifts

of finely selected

flavours and artistically arranged


I take it all in,

and unravel the order

into almost complete disorder,

which I spend carelessly

as heat.

The entropy of the universe

has just gone up

one notch.

Reading Chapter 8, “The origin and fate of the universe” in Stephen Hawking’s book “A brief history of time” will cast some light on this poem. DWV




Becoming whole

Grape, stiff with juice,

not perfectly round,

with a tough skin,

little moon

with slowly moving masses

under the surface;

floating balloon

in the arching womb,

blueprint wrapped carefully

in its stubborn skin

that will resist entry

from crowds of wriggling arrows –

at last allowing

only one,

chosen one,

and stop being

half a human being.




Beginning ending

Drums beat

in my chest,

in my ears,

drums beat

in my head,

in my hands.

It is a rhythm

I’ve known for very long,

a rhythm that has never ceased,

drums beat

in my mind,

in my memory,

it is a beat

that I follow

with my feet,

a beat

that I hold

within my chest,

drums beat

and have never ended;

at the end

of every beat

a new one begins.



16 February 2008 2.0

Beginning to think under the bleeding tree

Chewing slowly on the gum

of the Sweet Thorn tree

the translucent thicker-than-honey

sticky viscous blob

a little sour

somewhat sweetish tawny mass,

the boy on his haunches

watches the tightly speckled bird

coming closer,

lured by mealie seeds.

Carefully the boy

scratches a flea bite on his leg.

The world is big, as big as a farm;

the boy has never been to the ends of it.

Small, difficult letters

in his history book

spell out something

of trade with Europe

with Gum Arabic.

The boy swallows the thick liquid

as the alarmed guinea fowl flies off;

he will not kill this afternoon –

perhaps it is better;

he was not really looking forward to it.

Acacia karroo. An edible gum seeps from cracks in the tree’s bark. The gum can be used to manufacture candy and it used to have economic importance as “Cape Gum”. In dry areas, the tree’s presence is a sign of water, both above and underground.

Gum Arabic. A gum exuded by various African trees of the genus Acacia, especially A. senegal, used in the preparation of pills and emulsions and the manufacture of mucilage and candies and in general as a thickener and colloidal stabilizer. Also called acacia.

Acacia gum natural colloid is nowadays incorporated into many food and non-food products, that are used in everyday life. But did you know that Acacia Gum properties have been known since Ancient Times?

mealie = maize, corn



14 July 2010-07-14 NoL 2.6

Behind her mind

One can see

behind the paper-thin bodice

of her mind

her children

going about their daily lives.

One cannot see their faces;

she keeps their faces

in her thoughts.


one of them writes

a message on the inside

of the paper-thin bodice

of her mind.

A message she has to hold

to a mirror

to be able to read it.

Her children are close

behind the paper-thin bodice

of her love,

they are close

but they are not here.




Being in love with a bone

She was an athlete,

a woman who attracted men

with her graceful body,

but also with her delightful mind.

She very rarely thought about her tibia,

both her tibiae, in fact.

It was possible

that nobody, including herself, realised

how beautiful her tibiae were.

They had gently undulating

upper surfaces where they fit

perfectly on the lower surface

of her femurs.

From there they swept down

in a triangular shape

which is immaculately suited

to the attachment of her calf muscles.

At the ankle

the tibiae swerved gently to the inside

to form the modest little mounds

that were the only parts

of her tibiae

that were noticed by her admirers.

Those exquisite bones

were shaped by function,

which resulted in aesthetic delight.

She was an athlete

with the most admirable tibiae,

indistinguishable, really,

from yours and mine.



22 April 2010 4.0

Belonging                                                 NoL

The gardener guarded

the space.

It was his:

the ground, with its teeming life,

the water that fell on it

from well-travelled clouds.

His, the audacious green shoots

that lifted through the soil,

seed-husks still snug

on tightly folded leaf.

He touched the flaking bark

of his tree,

listened to the muted roar

of growth inside.

He owned the starling’s iridescent temper,

the barbet’s operatic prowess;

it belonged to him.

When he died,

he was buried there;

he was the garden’s.



25 May 2010 3.0

Bite the day NoL

From “Odes” by Horace (65 BC – 8 BC)

carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next.

I bit the day in two

and found the first part better.

It contained

the baby feet

of the morning,

kicking against my hands.

Also the brown smell of toast,

businesslike, already dressed for work,

the tie not yet on.

It had the radio

reciting the list

of ways humanity

was dodging around

looking for food, a fight

and the elusive delight

of an encounter with a suitable partner.

There were my tasks

blinking slowly up at me

from MSWord,

and making the visual noise

of a huge soccer crowd

jammed together in my Photoshop.

The second half

has lost its freshness,

it has become a little sweaty

in my hands,

somehow some fluff

got stuck onto it;

it is now.



16 April 2008

Blown a bit out of myself REVISED

The cloudscape changes
and floods excited crowds of sunlight
on a patch of playful sea,
turning fat green hills
into toyful bumping buses.

The wind turns her back,
shows me her cold white legs,
striding away.

The land is blackgreen,
the sky is dark coffee;
there is no exit sign.

She rips open the sky, the wind,
with a naughty laugh,
she breathes sea sand through my hair.

I do love you after all, she sings softly;
old apricot flavoured philosopher,
you ancient jingly bag of thoughts.

I love you
even though I cannot take you

Blown a bit out of myself

The cloudscape changes

and floods cavorting sunlight

on a patch of playful sea,

turning far green hills

into toyful bumping buses.

The wind turns her back,

shows me her cold white legs,

striding away.

The land is blackgreen,

the sky is dark coffee;

there is no exit sign.

She rips open the sky, the wind,

with a naughty laugh,

she breathes sea sand through my hair.

I do love you after all, she sings softly;

old apricot flavoured philosopher,

you ancient jingly bag of thoughts.

I love you

even though I cannot take you



Posted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 1:12 pm    Post subject:

After reading this a few times…I don’t really have any nits at all I like the…great images I think and I love the ending…

“blackgreen” was a and unexpected choice…not if its unexpectedness throws me off or if i like it… 

great poem






I love this poem. How can I express it? It needs a poem. The stanza

The wind turns her back,
shows me her cold white legs,
striding away.

caught my heart up straight. I had to stop and reread it several times. And the next stanza. (I am glad there was no exit.)

I like the (not) old (yes) apricot flavoured philosopher
you(I guess) ancient jingly bag of thoughts.

I love you
even though I cannot take you

Thank you for this poem. Of course it would be better if I didn’t chop it up, as I did here, but could just savor it, hold it in the bowl of my cheek, all day.


Posted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:27 am    Post subject:

It was a delight to read this poem. It wasn’t until the second stanza that I smiled in admiration, I had a few doubts about “hill” & “bumping buses” but they went away by the third stanza. Congratulations.
Sergio Ortiz

Susan Williams commented : Friday, 18 April 2008 09:34

This is lovely, De Waal.

I like the personification of the wind; the change in mood, from cold and haughty to playful, maybe a bit spiteful(?) and then the tender and loving embrace. What a manipulating lady she is!



13 May 2010 2.7

Blue-eyed boy NoL

The woman was not an Earth Mother

who could make the winter

go away

and protected the hunters.

She was a woman

who held the baby’s head

in the hollow of her hand.

He was sleeping,

but she knew his eyes were blue

like hers;

though he had the long head

of his father’s people.

You are of two people,

she crooned to him softly,

of the rhino hunters

and the clever ochre people

from the warmer lands.

He opened his eyes

and opened his mouth.

She stopped him with her breast.

He was content,

for now.




Bodies and minds at work

Athletes use their bodies

to go from one place

to the other

as fast as possible,

to kick a ball

as cunningly as possible,

to throw a javelin

as far as possible;

young people use their bodies

to create new people,

to nurture and protect them,

to teach and to love them;

soldiers use their bodies

to damage the bodies

of people with hot steel,

explosions and chemicals;

singers use their bodies

to push out sounds

that play on eardrums

with a pleasant effect;

scientists use their minds

to unravel the tangled

strands of reality

and to make the world

fit more and more

into our hands;

poets use their minds

to put up signs

in other minds

pointing to journeys

never undertaken before.




Born in the RSA

Twenty generations ago

in the sixteenth century CE,

Europe was discovering itself

and the rest of the world.

I was in the making then,

the genes that would culminate in me.

were put together

from father to son,

from mother to daughter,

from father to daughter,

from mother to son.

Here I am: assembled.

I am discovering myself,

I am discovering the world.

Will the world survive me.?

I’d better go

and water the garden.



17 June 2009 0.3

Born with clothes    – NoL

I hold several legends in my hands;

they stream and curl away

into darkness.

Am I bound by them,

do they hold my mind,

do they bind my body?

I feel the tug of Dionysos,

the wild strides into the sky,

shouting exulting words.

Apollo puts his hand on my brow

and talks to me

about the seed that create

new plants out of their dull shapes.

He shows me the ordered strings

of his lyre,

each with its determined note.

Aphrodite reveals herself to me,

her body becoming mine;

she laughs softly in my ear.

I gather these legends

with my fingers and my eyes;

I clothe myself with them.



13 December 2009

Breaking rigid thought patterns                        NoL

As the bull

walked down the aisle,

the tips of his horns

missed the delicate cups on the shelves

with less than a centimetre.

He turned left,

tilting his head

to manoeuvre his horns

past the fragile statuettes of shepherdesses,

and raked them

over the tea sets in soft blues.

He stopped in front

of an open glass case

with vases than can barely bear

the weight of three roses each.

Breath gushed from his nostrils,

agitating the sales lady’s satin dress:

I’m here to make a point,

his voice trundled deep from within his chest,

and I want a nose ring in china,

adorned with patterns from Delft.

With nose ring attached,

the bull stepped out of the shop,

leaving behind him

a cliché shattered to pieces.


7 July 2009 1.2

Moody lovers

(Buie van die geliefdes)                   – NoL

The clouds curl in agony,

torn about in doubt,

heavy in their black depression.

A point is crossed

and primitive emotion floods out;

the air turns into water,

the streets bottoms of rivers –

trees swim grimly in one place.

The mood passes,

shifting aside for the sun

that touches up the streets

in brand new light.

Homes cling to the sides,

breathing thankfully.

They will now

apologise to each other.



26 May 2009 1.7

Burning life                 – NoL

The finch

snatches a thin yellow flightline

out of the moist morning air.

She clicks her claws

on the metal feeding tray,

plucks around her head

with blinding speed,

then jabs a piece of bread –

she is not there anymore,

the tray swings gently.

The finch appears at her nest,

crawls in, feeds the babies;

her heart races bird-fast,

there is little time:

even now the sun

is burning away its life into space.



24 April 2.0

Butcher’s wife

The knife creates

a precipice in the sheep’s neck;

a moment later it is a raging red river.

The intestines smell intimate,

glistening in the sun.

Naked muscles

are still warm.

He gives her the kidneys,

they almost slip through her fingers,

but a white enamel bowl

comes to the rescue.

She will now prepare supper,

and herself.



28 June 2010 -0.8

Canine religion NoL

Dogs prefer not to walk

on their hind legs,

their anatomy militates against it.

They do not use verbs and nouns

in the strict sense of the word,

rather communicate with varying volume,

intonation and variation.

Dogs love to eat chocolate

but it is veritable poison to them.

They are prone to arthritis

and a whole gamut of infections,

yet they generally manage to stay healthy

due to their simple diet,

ample sleep and bursts of activity.

Dogs can be jealous, they can be petty,

they are always generous

to their human companions,

they are not ashamed to cry

and to show their unconditional love.

The spiritual life of dogs

is completely beyond you and me;

to them the odour of sanctity

is an absolute reality,

they worship with their noses.



27 September 2008 2.1

Changing my mind  – Revise 1

The mind is a lemon

and I have no idea

how this came about.

I used to think

the mind was entangling sets

of neural algorithms

based in the brain,

but fed by fluttering

emotional states.

Now I understand it is a lemon.

There is some sucrose wetness, though,

in a lemon;

difficult to detect

through the wilful acids.

Quietly within itself the mind holds
those sleek white seeds
that result in green growing
leafy, fragrant poems.

Quietly within itself the mind holds

those sleek white seeds

that will,

given the opportune circumstances.

result in green growing

leafy, fragrant poems.

15 October 2008

I found this poem brilliant, I can’t wipe the grin from my face. Incredibly done.



only you could get away with a phrase like this:

given the opportune circumstances.

i like the faux confusion expressed by the narrator:

The mind is a lemon
and I have no idea
how this came about.

there you go again:

entangling sets
of neural algorithms

DeWaal-isms. your poems make them work more often than — than — than lemons sans lemonaide.

fun this one:

sucrose wetness

and i’m glad someone is assigned to watch them

wilful acids.

bet you could skip this connector —

Quietly within itself the mind holds
those sleek white seeds
that will,

result in green growing
leafy, fragrant poems.

Quietly within itself the mind holds
those sleek white seeds
that result in green growing
leafy, fragrant poems.

quick and deft, how much more do we need?

nice job.




9 December 2013 NoL 0.2


The current

streams in her body.

At her fingertips

it yearns to jump forward,

in her eyes

it becomes a shining

that can only be seen with light.

The current

swirls in her mouth

dances with her tongue

and powers her words.

It flows through her heart

in a never-ending rhythm.

Her touch leaves

electric fingerprints

on my cheek.

Her words are charged

with the power of lightning

that can split trees.

I try to measure her

but cannot get her measure.




Body of the city

Trains gnash their teeth

as they track

towards the central city station,

over-filled with passengers,

nauseous like gluttons

at the end of gargantuan meal.


Cars and minibus taxis


the CBD

wave upon wave,

hunting hungrily for parking space.


Computer screens

glow to life in offices,

smartphones gurgle, cackle and crow

in pockets, briefcases and drawers.


The huge, blundering machine  machine of the city


noise, reports, losses and gains, information

packed goods, disease, gold jewellery, fashions.


Somewhere among this

there is a thin line of blood,

kept carefully inside the bodies

of human beings,

virtually invisible

in the metal and mortar,

glass and plastics body

of the city.