Mikki van Zyl

A palinpoem

blooms rise brazen under an African sun
season of blood waits for a new coral rising
a muse lies waiting. earth seeps iron into flesh
she spits out rocks. gets feet. walks
turns fins into leaving water
shreds teeth on sand
forgets how to grow gills. breathes air
before the rains she is waiting for nature
to release her. a life of breathing mud
succumbing to clichés.
better to dig into cruelty
paint a picture. someone
worthy in the eyes of my own
imagined history. blurred by the I memory
strength of a climb the whole weight that is me.

strength of a climb the whole weight that is me.
imagined history blurred by the I memory
worthy in the eyes of my own
paint a picture of someone
better. to dig into cruelty
succumbing to clichés
to release her. a life of breathing mud
before the rains. she is waiting for nature
forgets how to grow gills. breathes air
shreds teeth on sand
turns fins into leaving water
she spits out rocks. gets feet. walks.
a muse lies waiting. earth seeps iron into flesh
season. blood waits for a new coral rising
blooms rise brazen under an African sun.

Mikki van Zyl


They have found a place to try out his new flying saucer. The spice and iron smell of freshly hung biltong slices the icy air on the back stoep.
‘I want to do it. Please can I do it?’ She hops up and down with eagerness.
He can’t refuse the intense green eyes and fierce frown. But pauses to weight his seven-year old beneficence.
She holds the axle firmly, deftly tugs the toggle in a smooth wrist-elbow arc.
The saucer rises steeply. Spinning through the biltong rows it flips them off their anchor hooks. It’s raining biltong.
‘Quick! Shut the door before the dogs get in!’

Mikki van Zyl


Pre-memory of treebeing
energy suspended in life
erupts in colours
poetry on the tongue

energy suspended in life
reflects hidden shadows
poetry on the tongue
a blooming creation

reflected in hidden shadows
the quiet space behind
a blooming creation
as toes grip the earth

the quiet space behind
pre-memory of treebeing
fills with tumbling words
from clouds bearing rain.
Oergeheue van boomwees
geeskrag van die lewe
bot in kleure
poësie op die tong

geeskrag van die lewe
weerkaats verborge skadu’s
poësie op die tong
’n bloeiende skepping

verborge skadu’s weerkaats
die stille holtes agter
’n bloeiende skepping
en tone klou vas aan die grond

die stille holtes agter
oergeheue van boomwees
vul met vallende woorde
uit wolke gelaai met reën.

Mikki van Zyl


Donker wink my na haar lêplek
agter die maan seil spikkeldolfyne
geëts op die vel van die nag

Grotte groei, word kristalwoude
wat wag, wag vir die enkele druppel
om te val uit die vloed

spelonke weerklink ’n purpernag
die wind kronkel deur krake
soekend na die stilpunt van lig

glibberige drome ry skimme
ontvou in vlekkige lig
word rook, ontsnap en ontvlug

wolke jaag skadukuddes oor die see
jakarandabloeisels van herinnering
aan die plek wat ek verlaat het
om tuis te kom.


Darkness calls me into her recesses
beyond the moon dolphins hang
speckled, etched into the skin of night

caves grow themselves into crystal
forests, waiting, waiting for
the single drop in a torrent

caverns echo indigo night, wind
coiling through crevices towards
a stillpoint of light

sliding dreams ride spectres, unfurl
in flickering light, vaporise
into smoke and take flight

clouds drive shadows across the sea
floating jacaranda blooms of the past
blown in from the place I left
to come home.

Mikki van Zyl

Good at suicide

Confessions of a boeremeisie

After lunch there was always time. I flopped onto the sofa and grabbed what was left of the Guardian. More troops into Angola. For what? I sat. Thinking of home far away.
Kanika’s willowy shadow caressed my face. In her left hand the chess board, dangling. In her right, the box of pieces. An offering.

‘Feel like a game of suicide?’ A velvet purr. Words lilting, unEnglish. Lithe cat from an African place.

‘Yeah, ta. Why not?’ I was good at suicide.

We laid out the pieces, black and white.

Voices snaked in from the garden. Adam and Eve playing croquet in the rain. Arguing. As usual.

I moved to be taken, prey to her predator. Glanced up triumphant, and saw her wanting. Wanting me as much as I wanted her. Her arms around me. Lithe body furled around me, reaching into me.

My belly hollowed for her as she demolished my pieces. I’d won. Won a new self when the black and white squares dissolved on the board.

Mikki van Zyl

in en uit op die gety

ons wieg in en uit op die gety
onder alsiende oog van die maan
ontvlug die wreedheid op vlerke van liefkry

onderneem ’n reis, jouself verby
seil deur die nag van waan
ons wieg in en uit op die gety

spikkelmens eenkant, opsy
huilende oog met ’n traan
ontvlug die wreedheid op vlerke van liefkry

ek sal in jou voetspore bly
paaie stap, weë oopbaan
ons wieg in en uit op die gety

Reik uit, raak hande, maak monde vry
voel wanhoop, kom dan te staan
ontvlug die wreedheid op vlerke van liefkry

My hart punt. Dis jy
wat my trek in jou wentelbaan
ons wieg in en uit op die gety
ontvlug die wreedheid op vlerke van liefkry.

Mikki van Zyl


Stuck between
languages woorde
elude me trane
roer die binneklam

touch the moist inside
tears rivers to be
navigated na die bron
van weerloosheid

alle trane nie
mismoedig joy surges
tides of tears trane
roer die binneklep

die onvanpas wat
uitbars in ’n lagbui
spat jou tragedie
gedagtes my grap

words elude me
trapped between tale
tears touch thoughts
damp die binneklam

verlies lê in holtes
van pyn hol gewetens
wat pla voel-voel aan
die rowe wat groei

lawastrome woede
rivulets crest eye
craters running brine
binne-in die mond

trane lig die binnemis
van tussenwees

Mikki van Zyl


My hunkering na jou
word gevoed deur begeerte
ontketen op Sondagsmiddae
koek en tee … en beloftes.

Jy plant saadjies van hoop
in my soel grond
Grou diep in my wese
met vingerpunte getooi in pers lak naels.

Ek soek jou in die toekoms
’n verlangse déjà vu –
op die tippie van my tong
gevang uit die hoek van my oog.

My gedagtes dwarrel
maller, al in die rondte
Jy die kern van stilte, spil van die wind
terwyl ek draaikolk van verlange.

Die dryf van my drif
ryg uit in die holte van ’n golf.


Translated by Mikki
My yearning for you
is fed by desire
unleashed on Sunday afternoons
scones and tea … and promises.

You bury seeds of hope
in my lush earth
delve deeply into my being
your fingertips adorned with purple nails

I seek you in the future
a distant déjà vu –
caught on the tip of my tongue
from the corner of my eye.

My thoughts whirl faster,
madly round and around
you, the centre of calm, pivot of the wind
while I swirl, giddy with longing.

The well-spring of my lust
unfurls in the hollow of a wave.

Mikki van Zyl

Hier waar ek getuig

verweef die woestyn
kronkelende ooptes
kim tot kim
flits ’n skadu
neerwaarts en ontvou
brullende oorgawe
Ek getuig
hoe smee die heelal
dood met lewensdrif
hernuwing in ewige ewewig

Here I bear witness

the desert weaves
sinuous spaces
rim to rim
a shadow flashes
earthwards to unfold
roaring surrender
I witness
how the universe fuses
death with passion
renewal in perpetual equilibrium

Mikki van Zyl

Uncharted waters


I could never have imagined that four words could turn my life inside out.

It started as an ordinary evening – at least ordinary for the past few months.

We had met in Spring. Those gusty days when Edinburgh knows not whether she prefers to hang back in Winter, or gallop towards Summer. He caught my hand as I tripped off the hansom to go for my customary stroll in Queen’s Park – one tidy morning which had changed its mind and turned blustery. I felt the electricity of his gallant touch even then. And so it became customary for us to stroll together. What an empathetic being, a humanist to the core. But then he was studying to be a doctor. He would reassure with warmth, my own Dr. James Barry.

Our relationships progressed as expected, until last evening.


‘My dearest Liliane – you are no doubt aware of my feelings for you. You know how I hold you in the highest esteem, more than my colleagues, or aye, even my kin. You are assured of this?

‘No … hush. This is a difficult telling and can bear no interruption, no straying from the point. What I have to ask you … nay, confide in you, is a secret of such enormity that surely only death can reveal. And yet, I need your word.

‘You have indicated that my deep feelings for you are reciprocated. You have even hinted that you are adventurous and would value no company more than my own should we take on the world beyond these shores. I therefore humbly ask you “Will you marry me?”

‘No, hush dearest, there is more. And you need to consider your answer very carefully. So do not answer in haste. You know my plans to work in Africa, and I would expect – nay that word is too commanding – I would desire you beside me. Yet have I not revealed that which is most urgent.

‘We have made love together here, you and I. On this loveseat have you answered my touch most gently. Have you not looked into my eyes to find a reflection for that softness which I see in your glance? And have you not heard the passion in my whispers when I declared my love for you? This love is strong and true.

‘When you have heard me out, wait before you speak, and consider your true feelings for me. Only then, say whether you will marry me. I hope, nay know, that you can bear the truth. Yet am I dressed in garments that are not me. My love, I am a woman.’


The shock silenced me utterly, while his warm green gaze lingered anxiously over my face. My fingers, enlaced in his, as ever, burnt at the points of contact, warm, reassuring. He did nor try to hold me, but left me free to withdraw. Would I retreat from the gentlest person I had ever known? He was my best friend, confidant. I wanted to stay within the safety of that embrace for all eternity. My lips uttered: Yes, love, I will marry you.