Tuesday, June 26, 2012

RIPE FRUIT by Ruben Mowszowski

It was that time again. 
He sat on the ground letting the dusk settle on him.
The air was dry, pulling the moisture from his lungs, lightening his body.
Why had he come?
Too long. It had been too long.
Once he had imagined a child.
Forget, forget.
He stared at the outline of the tree, its shape like an upturned hand,
beseeching or giving, he could not be sure.
Dear God, is it not long enough? Give me emptiness;
my heart is full of sharp pointed stones.
On the branches dark shapes stirred and one by one dropped off
with heavy fluttering wings.

Ungrateful wretch, he thought, at least you have life. 
He looked at his body to see that it was all there.
Thank you God; for this leg, for this arm; all the parts he could think of.
Later he would look around the stony Karoo for the rest. 
At some other time he might spread himself across the valley
casting hands and feet at the base of the twin mountains.
The silence was that of a place emptied, a place of no water save for the spring 
and the souls of ancient fish passing wraithlike through him.  
The rocks were hard on his feet; the ground was dry.
He had walked barefoot on the hard stony ground collecting thoughts scattered on the hillside.
All morning he had walked leaving dark crimson streaks behind him.
Take my heart, take my blood, he had pleaded.  
He longed for his body to be pierced, for his blood to flow and be absorbed by the dry air; to unravel himself over bushes and become picking food for birds and lizards;
to be sucked up the trunks of trees leaving his bones spring-washed pure
and bleached white. 

The tree had lost its outline. 
A shape separated itself and grew larger. 
She lay next to him, warming him.
He touched her face.
I was afraid, she said. I dreamed you built a house and it turned to sand.
He felt her arms tighten around him, dark curls against his face.
When he entered her, tears sprang from her eyes onto the dry ground.

He woke up, he was alone.  
The morning sky held a curved moon and a bright star.
New growth had appeared on the tree 
and the branches were heavy with ripe fruit. 

~ * ~

Ruben Mowszowski lives in Kalk Bay, a salt-licked fishing village about an hour's drive from Cape Point, the Southernmost tip of South Africa. One late afternoon in January, he and I met in a sun-warmed courtyard and sat in the shade of an old syringa tree drinking wine, eating almonds and olives and talking till the sun sank behind the mountain. Inspired by our wide-roaming conversation, I went in search of his work.

To borrow the words of Sam Keen - "Aristotle said 'Philosophy begins in wonder.' I believe it also ends in wonder. The ultimate way we relate to the world as something sacred is by renewing our sense of wonder."

To my mind, Ruben Mowszowski's writing renews our sense of wonder. When I invited him to send me a few lines as a backdrop to Ripe Fruit - a piece that seems to me equal parts reflective essay and poem - he replied 'I wrote the piece in Warmwaterberg - the hot mineral springs near Barrydale in the Klein Karoo. The peacocks there roost at night on the branches of trees. I'm always cautious about writing too much about a poetic piece but I'll say something about the landscape. . . the way the land speaks here and the animistic ethos that allows a tree to be imbued with the spirit of a person. The waters are slightly radioactive so all sorts of physical benefits are claimed but it's also a place where the wounded can go to heal the soul. . . " 

A few weeks ago, I posted Ruben's poem Karoo Moon on my blog. Although Ripe Fruit and Karoo Moon sound distinctly different notes, there's a raw-yet-yielding quality to both. Each piece took root - and is rooted within - the Karoo, a vast wilderness area of semi-desert that covers two-thirds of South Africa.

                ". . . Time here, if there is time, is all of time. Time space and form,
                mantis hare and moon, are but different aspects of one face.
                Earth and sky interpenetrate. Some people talk about a deeper
                breath. There can be sadness not related to anything one knows.
                Language fails. . . "

                                and a second excerpt from Karoo Moon 

                ". . . There is another story told in wind
                of wind that was once a man then bird
                dropping bloodstained feather into a pool
                among the daughters of the rain
                ostrich becoming ostrich again
                while sun thrown up into the sky
                reshapes the moon that does not die
                for ever, but reborn gathers souls,
                and clouts the hare and splits its lip
                for doubting resurrection of the dead. . . "

Bosduif, Kaaingsveld - Stephen Inggs (SA)
Digital print with archival inks on paper - 1118 x 805MM (from the series Legacy - 2009)

Ruben Mowszowski’s articles on science and culture have been published in The Mail & Guardian, The Sunday Independent, Leadership, Geographical (UK), Resurgence (UK), Style, Architectural Digest, Men's Health, Pforeword, Directions, Research Papers, Doenit, Chi, Right Stuff. Invista (Portugal), Fair Lady. He was author of the commemorative article for the launch of the Southern African Large Telescope (Click here to read SKA on the birthplace of humanitity). 

Ruben's literary writing has been published in Revue Noire (France), New Contrast, Vrye Weekblad, Cosmopolitan (SA). He is the co-author of Karoo Moons (Struik) and author of the short fiction collection Souls of Ancient Fish (Brevitas.) He was a prize-winning finalist in the Vita Short Story Awards, a finalist for the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award, shortlisted for the SACPAC National Drama Award, runner-up prize-winner of the South African Science and Technology Journalism Award, winner of the South African Science and Technology Journalism Award, and shortlisted for the EU Literary Award

The Karoo

~ * ~

Claire Beynon is this week's Tuesday Poem editor. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Claire immigrated to Dunedin, New Zealand in November 1994. She has a soft spot for many things, especially birds and earthworms

                 '. . . the more since chameleons bent in gnarled attitudes 
                 of prayer have long since left my garden. . .' (from Second Nature, CB 2007)

These days, long-legged lancewoods and an old rata are home and haven to flurries of native birds that gather in her harbourside garden. Claire is a visual artist, art-science collaborator and writer of poetry and short stories. She blogs at All Finite Things Reveal Infinitude and Waters I Have Known. Her web address is www.clairebeynon.co. nz

After you've enjoyed Ripe Fruit, take time to read the other poems posted this week by members of the Tuesday Poem community. You will find them listed in the sidebar.


Helen McKinlay said...

I admire the honesty of this poem.
The way the poet's soul is open to the environment...becomes the environment somehow it seems.
Being able to convey this in words is a priceless gift. Thankyou both.

Michelle Elvy said...

I recall some of his work at your blog, Claire, which I enjoyed very much. And yes, I see how this opens you to wonder. Some lovely phrasing in this, a story unfolding as the reader works her way through...

Helen Lowe said...

The imagery in this poem is very rich, as is the sense of landscape

Claire Beynon said...

Helen - I do, too. It's not necessarily comfortable but sometimes the truth isn't. I agree the poet's soul becomes the environment, in the way a painter like Georgia O'Keefe becomes the landscapes she paints (by proxy, they take on something of her nature?). In both situations, an exchange and change of nature seems to take place? Thanks, Helen.

Claire Beynon said...

Hi Michelle - yes. . . happy to know you enjoyed this piece, and too, Ruben's 'Karoo Moon' posted on my blog a few weeks ago. I find his writing visceral and compelling. As you say, there's something about the story-telling. . .

Claire Beynon said...

Hi Helen - thank you. It is. And it is ; )