Thursday Poem

Night Psalm

it’s a honky tonk that illumines the night
it’s the keyboard of a honky tonk
down at the feet of things
at the feet of the lampposts
at the acrid feet of the olive trees
it’s a metronome
at the sweeter feet of the lemongrove
at the vlei’s little slippers of water
down at the bottom of the reeds
where the lilies lilt on stilettos
it’s a rickety old honky tonk
maybe a loom
the spool and the shuttle
of a cranky old loom
or a smithy’s tinker and tilt
down in the sump of the night
or a sowing machine with a tapping heel
that jig-jigs yonder in the quag
it’s cheeky jazz on bell tongues
it’s in the hoof of every culm
sans a tune
without amen
it’s a honky tonk
it’s a clapper key
it’s a speckling under the dewclaw
it echoes from under the lavender
they’re foot spoons
they’re foot raps
of crickets and of toads
they’re the ones that are a-tappin’ and a-tickin’
unceasing in the mottle of the grass
to this I hum
to this I strum
to this I swingle
my night psalm

by Marlene van Niekerk
from Poetry International, 2013
translation by author