Reality shifting


1 A complicated hello

2 A heartfelt homage to the tulip

3 A mind other than my own

4 A single night starts tomorrow

5 A step in the right direction

6 A unique person

7 Adjusting reality

8 An African prince

9 An anthropomorphic take on ethics

10 An extraordinary discovery

11 Assault on a sheet of blank paper

12 Attacking a problem

13 Attainment

14 Autobiography of a three-month old

15 Baking a personality

16 Based on earth

17 Behind the frosted glass

18 Believing in the morning

19 Below the surface

20 Beyond the window

Morphous koppe





28 November 2013 RS 2.4

A complicated hello

He walked over the surface

of his brain;

it reminded him of the Sahara –

white dunes, one after the other,

deep ravines that separate them.

Under his feet he could feel

a deep, never-ending hum,

a susurration of partial messages

that flit from sector to sector,

sometimes emerging complete

and recognised as a thought

by his consciousness.

One of the thoughts

is now being given shape and form

by the spectacular breakdance of his tongue

in the cavity of his mouth

to shape a small burst of air

that races from his mouth,

now clad in the athletic attire

of a word.

This is what reaches your ears,

what your brain turns

into a message you think you understand:

he walked over the surface

of his brain …



8 July 2010 2.1

A heartfelt homage to the tulip  RS

My heart feeds my body

through tubules

of racing-car red.

I hear your invitations

to partake in creations

of conversations about the whats

and the whys

through the twisted little tubes

of my inner ears.

My baked eggs, my toast

with marmalade, and freshly

ground coffee

undergo their metamorphosis

into burning sugars, virile aminos

in the undulating tube

of my patiently

peristaltic intestine.

And I also see you tu-

lip, feeding through your elegant canal

such ravishing words

that they shake my metaphoric heart

and make it jump

to reach into the sun.

11 December 2013 RS  2.3



1 Oct 2013 RS 0.3

A mind, other than my own

I step into your thoughts,

a space traveller

setting foot on Mars.

It is alien,

the sky isn’t blue.

I crunch over small stones

and sand.

I am much lighter here,

in your thoughts,

and I do not have the same power

as I have in my own.

I have sent other craft

before I landed.

There they are: units in which I can live,

containers with food and water.

I will be able to live here

in your thoughts,

but I will never be able

to emerge from my habitat

without my protective suit.

Will I ever be able

to know you




23 December 2011 RS 2.9

A single night starts tomorrow

There was an owl

In the night.

it notified

those that were dreaming

that their souls

were criticising the stars,

wiping out the distance

to the moon.

The owl’s oboe

led on philharmonic orchestras

assembling in the blue breath

of the night.

Together they played

variations on life

never heard in the waking state.

The owl went silent

and the night

shrank into a singularity;

it will reappear in an eternity




31 May 2010 3.2

A step in the direction Real

The steps curved away

around a corner.

When the woman stepped forward

she saw a man climbing up

an intersecting stairway.

They greeted each other,

chatted for a while.

Then she continued

down a set of broad steps

leading to a pleasant garden,

Children were playing

on brightly coloured steps,

tumbling over each other

without getting hurt.

She climbed up a steep set of steps,

holding on to the handrail

that vibrated under her palms.

At the top

she had the choice

to walk up a gentle slope

of softly carpeted steps,

or a narrow, winding stairway

that arched dangerously

over a deep crevice.

The man was standing there,

halfway over,

looking down.

She stepped onto the stairway,

it creaked and moved uneasily;

the man looked up.



17 November 2011 RS 6.2

A unique person

A teaspoon filled with sand,

a piece of string

tied around a toothbrush,

a clothes peg, plastic, vivid red,

a nail clipper, a box of matches,

a button, a micro-chip, a battery, AA plus,

a pencil, a piece of biltong,

an instruction sheet written in Chinese,

disguised as English,

a glass with some water in it,

a torn sheet of newspaper

showing half an advertisement

for a weight-reducing product,

a coin with a spot of paint

on one side.

This is a full description

of the subject of this poem.

You will immediately recognise this person;

it may be a man or woman –

you will know.

Is it an ordinary person?

It is an extraordinary person.



28 June 2012    RS 3.3

Adjusting reality

He listened

to the subtle noises

of someone moving around

in the house.

He was at the bottom of the night,

staring upwards,

but there was not a single flick

of light.

He fumbled for his mind

and tried to put it on,

his hand could not find the armhole.

Someone was moving

around in the house.

He could now see a patch

of dark light,

high above him.

It was a soft sound,

a hand had moved something.

Dead quiet stepped in,

officiously settled down

only allowing the almost inaudible

soughing of a heavy truck far away.

Something had been altered in the house,

it was not as before,

tomorrow he will begin a new life.



20 March RS -0.1

An African prince

It is white,

but not really –

sometimes it looks blue

or grey; at sunrise tints of peach and rose.

It is cold, of course,

being frozen water,

but much lighter than water

because it comes in tiny

decorative crystals

that take up lots of space

with huge amounts of air in between the framework.

Perhaps it feels like ice-cream,

but I wonder …

ice-cream is rather solid

and snow is more like powder –

no, not powder either, powder is finer

and snow is … grittier?

Or does it feel like feathers,

light and fluffy?

What happens when you crush it

in your hands,

do those tiny crystals break up

and you sit with a heap

of broken twiglets in your hand?

My dear little Snow White,

your eyes are cantatas

in the soundless white of your face.

I do not know you,

I understand you as little as snow.



28 September 2012 RS 2.0

An anthropomorphic take on ethics

The grasshopper

couldn’t stand the butterfly,

as he hated the way

she slurped her food.

The butterfly thought

the grasshopper

had soulless eyes

and too easily jumped to conclusions.

They both thought

the ant rather lacked

in individuality and personality.

But the ants’ queen had comforting words:

Don’t worry Danny … or Davy,

they are a disorganised bunch.

The earthworm

found the ant a pain in the but,

especially when he had business

above ground,

and he found the butterfly

unacceptably flighty.

The butterfly thought

the earthworm had a rather unwholesome taste

in food,

almost as bad as the grasshopper’s

who behaved at mealtimes

like a hasty goat,

in her opinion,

a danger to dainty ladies.

The grasshopper carefully cleaned

his various sets of mandibles

and remarked in his raspy voice:

I cannot stand people who aren’t tolerant.

Intolerant people should be pesticided into extinction.



19 Augustus RS -2.7

An extraordinary discovery

Sometimes the most ordinary words

seem to have acquired

deep significance.

“Ordinary” comes to mind

and smiles challengingly.

What do you think I mean?

it asks with a somewhat mean twist

to its smile.

Do I stand for things

that are ordered?

When you order things,do they become ordinary?

Or do you think

I stand for things that are usual?

If you use a thing

it becomes ordinary?

The ordinary housefly.

an anaconda, asteroid or solar system,

alkaloid, atom, God Particle or asp?

What can be more ordinary than anti-matter,

or for that matter, matter?

It seems that everything is ordinary,

and that means

everything is wonderful.



22 Augustust 2012 RS 0.7

Assault on a sheet of blank paper

Take this …

and this.

Are you wounded yet?

Are you feeling

the pain of meaning?

Perhaps not …

I will attack again:

the mother holds the child’s fist

like a joint

in a larger body

she shapes her words

to support

the small psyche’s armpits

like gaily painted crutches.

She wets a finger

from her tongue

and removes a full stop

from the child’s chin.

I have whet my pen

to cut the agony of living

onto your spotless face.



4 December 2009 -0.1

Attacking a problem                 Real

Thoughts trotted out,

Roman soldiers holding their stabbing spears,

uniformly dressed at first glance

but each different

when you look closer.

They set themselves up

in defensive formation,

shields locked into a glinting barrier.

The general rode past behind them,

his cloak straining in the wind;

he pulled in his horse

and shouted: “Advance!”

The army moved forward

with a dull rumble;

the enemy is a problem,

but it will now be solved.



17 July 2012 RS 2.2


He settles on his knees,

closes his eyes

and concentrates his mind

on a single point.

All sounds ebb away from him …

the silence

is ripped apart

like a temple hanging,

by a gunshot.

He ejects his body

from the blocks

and strains his whole being

to breaking point –

the thin white line ahead

will only be attained

when it is attained.



24 Feb 2010 -1.2

Autobiography of a three-month old                                        RS

The Soft One

did things with my feet.

I don’t want things on my feet,

it’s too warm.

I kick them off.

The Soft One

takes me into a noisy place.

There are many shapes,

all of them have colours.

A Big One

comes close,

it has a dark opening

that closes and opens,

sounds come from it

and new smells,

I can’t say I like it much.

It takes my hand

and moves it around.

I hope it won’t take my hand away,

I don’t really know what it is for,

but I think I’ll find a use for it.

It is nice to get this warm feeling

where my tummy and my legs come together,

but after a while it gets cold.

I’m going to sleep now.

I’ve had a long life,

I don’t know how much more is to come,

but I’ll handle it

when it …



Baking a personality

There is the slightes blueish tint

in the whiteness of milk.

How are sugar crystals different

from diamonds?

They toy with light,

tossing it playfully about.

The shifting shape of flour,

a solid body that almost acts

like a liquid.

A brick of yellow butter,

how is it different from gold?

Gold cannot be melted into batter.

Salt with its water-hungry

little shards,

the taste that dictates to other tastes.

Some lemon juice, brown cocoa, eggs newly emerged from shells,

wrinkled raisins clinging to their sweetness.

Mix all this,

your moods, your talents,

your abilities, your experiences –

expose it to the heat

of the oven of everyday life.

You emerge,

a new entity.



15 December RS 1.5

Based on earth

I am anchored

in a concrete block

next to an electrical substation

with faded letters

spelling out the name of the municipality.

Above me is the moon,

detached from everything down here.

It seems happy to me,

but maybe it is my subjective understanding

of this great country,

full of promise:

hidden water, untouched minerals,

scenery that can change lives,

a country

without a single citizen.

I cannot move from here.

I watch an occasional car pass;

someone throws an empty

take-away food container

from the car’s passenger window.

The substation hums.



2 September 2013 RS 3.0

Behind the frosted glass

The light

through the frosted glass

talks to me

in a language

I barely understand.

It is not the transparent images

of Tomas Tranströmer

that start out as a day

and changes into a flying magpie,

it is not

the abundantly flavoured

bunches of grapes

that turn into women’s breasts

of Pablo Neruda;

the light

through the frosted glass

tells in rich detail

of the tree outside.

I listen carefully

but understand imperfectly –

the tree’s roots

reach underneath the house,

the topmost twigs

stare into the troposphere,

its leaves

work incessantly

to make human breath.

The light

through the frosted glass

does not tell the whole story,

there is more

that never came through the glass.

The whole story is being told,

but you and I

do not have the vocabulary

to fully understand.



5 December 2011 RS 2.8

Believing in the morning

Am I to believe

that the electric kettle

is in the kitchen

just waiting for me

to switch it on?

How do I know

when I walk down the passage

the kitchen will be there

and not a gaping cave

lit from a hole twenty metres above;

paintings of mammoth and deer

on the walls, prints of hands,

and to one side on the floor,

a dully shining metal object

the size of a small car,

the bottom part set in hard breccia,

the deposit of hundreds of thousands of years.

Am I to believe that

just because I hear

the faint shouts of hunters

and the yelping of wolves, 

the cave is waiting at the other end of the passage?

Am I possibly mistaking

the noise-debris

of my suburb

for the shouting

of children in the cave,

the clatter of women’s voices

at the cooking fires;

I smell meat being cooked,

herbs I have never come across before.

But I believe in my electric kettle.

I will now get up and go and switch it on.

I live by faith.



1 April 2010 -0.3

Below the surface                                                    RS

Everything is ordinary today:

all the surfaces are impenetrable.

The kitchen knife

is shaped steel, nothing more,

the plate is baked clay, round and flat.

I know what I will find

when I cut open the tomato:

light-red, pulpy flesh, pips and watery juice.

It is a myth that there are mysteries –

they can be explained,

every one of them.

Atoms behave predictably,

molecules are mobs,

metals have known qualities,

the weather has patterns,

chaos and complexity

are being teased apart;

threads of knowledge

are being neatly wound.

Why is it then

that last night was a wound

in my shivering spirit?

Why was I comforted

by an incomprehensible conversation

with my grandfather

who had left this reality

when I was a young man?



5 April 2012 3.9

Beyond the window

What do you see

out the window?

The massive camphor trees

Van der Stel planted in the 1700’s,

a dog jogging

over the lawn,

swerving sunddenly

to smell at something very intriguing

invisible to you.

A man wanders

around the ancient trunk.

He touches the bark,

the small twig

growing near the bulging root.

Is the man young or old?

You cannot really see.

He moves slowly,

but that may be

because he is relaxed.

Behing the tree the rose garden

exposes an almost scandalous

riot of colours and aromas;

a young woman bends over a rose,

she is wearing jeans

the shape of an invitation

to a powereful man.

The man at the tree

turns round,

looks at the window.

You recognise his face.