Rustum Kozain’s ‘February harvest: Boland’

February harvest: Boland
Rustum Kozain

1. The grape picker

Her calves hard as stumps of vine
an old woman heaves a basket
like a hump to her back and hacks
a pearl of phlegm from her throat.

Daybreak. She yearns to taste
that warm and sweet sulphuric wine
and dreams of empty rows of vine:
one tot for each tenth load of grapes.

But the rows hang full and wait.
One foot in front of another
she stoops, bends knees and waist.
Soon, her brown and stick-gnarled arms

alternate to pluck and toss
          pluck and toss fat grapes
from vine to back-borne basket:
her limbs akimbo, like broken swastikas,

like vine barbing the still, persistent land.

2. Wine’s estate

The early sun bloats the long drop to such glut
odours clamour over the bluebottles’ buzz.

In the distance, a slit-eyed cock tries to crow
chokes on a crackling phrase, heaves for air.

At ten, the sun slows, hangs just there
like God’s diamond brooch to robes thinned by wear.

Under her fifth basket of grapes, the woman
bends so low over shrivelling leaf
she hears her sweat seep into the ground.

Thirsty, she lifts some grapes to her mouth
and feels them burst like a flush of blood
against her palate

her blood that’s fed the sand.
from This Carting Life (Kwela/Snailpress, 2005)
This Carting Life can be ordered here and here.
Read Rustum’s blog, Groundwork, here.

9 thoughts on “Rustum Kozain’s ‘February harvest: Boland’

  1. Michelle Post author

    I should mention, This Carting Life, was awarded the Ingrid Jonker Prize in 2006 and the Olive Schreiner Prize in 2007. And it’s definitely recommended reading.

  2. Rethabile

    I wish I could get my hands on everything Rustum has written.

    And I will.

    If anyone’s interested in reading/hearing more: click here to my site.

    Michelle, I hope you won’t mind my linking from your blog like this.

  3. Michelle Post author

    R, I don’t mind at all. The more the merrier …

    Do you have a copy of This Carting Life?

  4. Rethabile

    No. My bro in law was in RSA last month and I asked him to get it. He wasn’t able to find it. I’ll have to go through a mail-order house.

  5. Michelle Post author

    If I come across a copy in any of the bookshops I frequent during the holidays, I’ll get it for you. In the meantime, let me know if you order a copy so you don’t end up with two books.

  6. Marc Carolissen


    Would you know how i can get in touch with Rustum Kozain. I relocated to London as a young student and would like to touch base with him after some 20 yrs. (If you’ve read “Dagga” their is a MC character…

    Please if you can.

    Thanks in advance.


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