Haidee Kruger’s The Reckless Sleeper

 
 
 
Haidee Kruger is an academic, editor, translator and poet. She holds a PhD in translation studies, and is primarily involved in research in descriptive and theoretical translation studies. Her most recent publication is Postcolonial polysystems: The production and reception of translated children’s literature in South Africa (John Benjamins).

Her poetry and short stories have been published in, amongst others, The Common, Big Bridge, New Contrast and New Coin. Her debut collection of poetry, Lush: poems for four voices, was published in 2007 by Protea Book House. The Reckless Sleeper (Modjaji Books, 2012) is her second collection.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Reckless Sleeper is a consuming, agile, acutely crafted collection of poems from one of the most promising younger South African poets. Haidee Kruger’s poetry is at deepest an exploration of the relationship between language and the body. This, her second collection, is sharp, intelligent, sensual poetry of love, loss, sexuality and creativity. Its language is at turns enigmatic, beguiling and shocking in its minute strangeness, displacing the reader into a surprising awareness of the violence of the everyday, the ordinariness of the extraordinary.”
 
 
 
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“Here is Kruger’s second collection of the frantic and the fragile. Her poems recklessly carry their insides on the outside. They run fiercely across the traffic of language and love. Read them.”
 
– Kobus Moolman
 
 
 
“In this, her second individual collection, Haidee Kruger extends the accomplishment of her earlier work. With inventive use of line and page and an unusual, but telling, juxtaposition of images, she achieves a poetry that is simultaneously visceral and intellectual. Her poems are at once both toughly gnarled and delicately gentle. They immerse the reader in a world where the body is interpenetrated by the natural, sexual and workaday, and the previously familiar emerges strange and new.”

– Kelwyn Sole
 
 
 
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For A, four years old this spring
 
 
You ask

if we are allowed
to talk about

the deadness of
plum blossoms
in a glass jar

and I have to think
before saying

yes.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Mermaid song
 
 
It’s a different element: turbid, electric, saline.
You have to prove your fins
before we can let you in.

A toe to the water is not an option;
there is only full immersion,
scraping away the scales until you’re just
the pulse of raw meat baptised in brine.

It’s a red tide, a lick of phototactic tongue ebbing,
or a mermaid disappearing into her gills,
depending.

This place aches and aches and aches its fluorescent beat.
You have to prove your fins
before we can let you in.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
The way light falls
 
 
It’s Wednesday and
the sky has
a biblical look
to it, like
a prophet’s beard
straggling red over
the horizon. She
picks up her
weight and walks
through the gate,
into the morning.
Her body disappears
but she leaves
tracks in the
mud: an invitation
for hunting. In

the street children
cling to the
pavement while their
mothers unplug themselves
from the day
ahead. The wind
sleeps between buildings.
She watches the
chickens like 3D-mosaics
behind wire, and
wonders about feathered
things and how
to kill them.
She buys a
remote control and
notes the particular
taste of milk
and metal on
her tongue, and
thinks: none of

us understand our
breathing, still we
breathe; still we
remember how a
kiss can turn
you into a
stranger to yourself.
Yes, there is
redemption in this,
she says to
her belly: the
way light falls
on hands here.
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
the underground
 
 
the man with the concertina
playing psalms while staring at
a poster of madonna nodded
at the money and said
it seems i should learn
how to juggle    &    the blonde
woman with the perfect knees
pulled out split hairs putting
them on her lap to
count and when she couldn’t
find any more she split
some with her boyfriend who
was trying to sleep but
couldn’t because of the smell
of oranges and the old
man turning the pages of
his book next to him
like a bedroom door shutting
and said i need to
have a baby    &    the mystic
with the hair like the
wing of a crow and
the ayurvedic body oil sang
and smiled but did not
say i need you so
the man with the level
tasting women with nipples black
like olives said find a
cliché and fall in love
with it    &    the boy chewing
his shoelaces looked at the
girl counting the stitches in
her skull and said you’ll
be needing both hands to
hold on to reality    &    the
reader holding her book gently
to keep its spine smooth
like a new body said
why keep your tongue in
your mouth?    &    the sleeper with
the ears of a wolf
slumbered without dreaming while    the
child without a mouth said
you are a container for
all this all this all
this all yes i said
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Poem for my father
 
 
Today I am my father, lining
up brown paper, scissors, plastic, tape,
his hands dappled origami birds over
the ribcages of the unlived year, or else
exorcising wrinkles in a halo of steam and crisp cotton,
his face a furrow brimming with silent seeds.

I never thought these things wings, and yet,
today I cut the shapes we learn without knowing.
A corner is a treacherous thing –
the angle should be
just so –
but it is nothing against a spine.
You want it planed and sleek but not
too taut, a living
supple string, much like the faultline that runs down the leg,
fabric that echoes skin in secret places.

Time folds. Today I see:
inside the geometries of my father
is tucked the softest rumple of things, feathering.
 
 
 
 
from The Reckless Sleeper (Modjaji Books, 2012).

Order The Reckless Sleeper from cdhiggs@gmail.com.

Visit Haidee’s blog.
 
 
 
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