Three Poems by Isabel de Gruchy, South Africa

Grateful to post poems in three very different moods from Isabel De Gruchy’s newest book Not Done Yet.

She writes in the opening words:

By naming this collection of poems Not Done Yet I may be shouting defiance at the unstoppable enemies of humankind – namely age and disease. Both of them move inexorably on, engulfing all in their path. And so I find, in my eightieth year, that both my age and the Parkinson’s Disease are making themselves very apparent and it seems no longer possible to evade them.
… And thanks to God who has always kept me going and I claim in the right direction, and kept my mind at least functioning smartly, with none of my marbles lost. Time moves on, life slows down, or I should say, I slow down while life rushes by, but tough as some of it may be, there is satisfaction in creating something new and joy in so much that life still offers. I pray that anyone who picks up this book may find along with some of my pains and struggles reflected in its pages, also a sense of joy.
Isobel de Gruchy,

Spring Walk

The wind is taking a break and so am I.
The mist softens the hills with a cloak of tulle
which they shrug off as the sun embraces them.
I shed my jacket and too feel its heat as I climb.

Three mousebirds appear out of a bush,
watch me for a moment, and take off.
A grassbird trills its song from the top of a young pine.
Too many pine trees, looking like Christmas trees
with their candles of new growth,
are standing high above the Fynbos,
asserting their supremacy, gathering in numbers,
aliens, invading,
preparing to usurp the land of the Fynbos.

The wind has returned, chilling me, reminding me,
Paradise is not here yet,
always the snake is in the garden.

Life Goes On

Life goes on – it always has and it always will:
our tomorrows become our yesterdays,
our futures our past,
and our opportunities either turn into gold or straw.
Life, said St Paul, is like running a race:
keep your eye on the prize,
and all your effort into running to win.
But isn’t life more like running a relay race?
You put all your effort into running,
but your eye is on your team-mate
who waits to receive the baton,
then he’s off and you fall back.
Your part is done, but the race goes on.

Life goes on, it always has and it always will,
fashions, customs, movements,
even powerful governments, have their day
and are gone – and people come and go,
some far too swiftly.
I was young once, a helpless baby,
relying on my parents till I grew to be my own person.
and now I am old – and beginning to sense
that the baton I hold must be handed on.
But I feel it is mine to keep – I can still do this better.

My pace is slowing, my steps beginning to falter,
but still to me running is the thing,
handing on and falling back too hard to contemplate.
but life goes on, it always has and it always will,
but I won’t – for life is bigger than me.

Psalm of Lament for Our Land, South Africa

Lord, you looked with favour on our land;
you did not allow it to sink into chaos.

You moved us to accept a new order;
you oversaw the Rainbow Nation come into being.

That was more than twenty years ago –
when freedom came.

Twenty years of democracy, of self-rule,
twenty years of transformation for our people,
and where are we?

Lord, why have you turned your face from us?
Why have you allowed evil to flourish?

And although some who were out are in,
and some who were underdogs are on top,

many who were in have left the country,
and many who were on top are still there,
in wealth and business, and in complaining, and fear,

for things are disintegrating;
education, healthcare, public transport,
telephones, postal service, electricity, water, policing,
are falling apart, dysfunctional.

Lord, who is left to serve you?
Because those privileged with jobs and old money,
or jobs and new money,
buy themselves out or help themselves,

And the vast majority of the poor,
uneducated, newly urbanised, dehumanised, desperate,
huddle together in shacks, in townships,
and are as afraid as the wealthy,
huddled together behind electrified walls and private security.

The rest take what they can
when they can, ruthlessly and violently.

Hermanus/Zwelihle is like that –
one town, but two worlds, two realities, two existences,

two peoples yet with the same aspirations, emotions, desires,
in one a future – in the other hope flown, dreams dead.

Where are you, Lord?
Will you not restore us again?

Will you not bless us and save us?
Where is your faithfulness of old?

Come Lord, come!
We need a miracle!

Send workers into the fields, the harvest is ripe.
Send your Spirit to liberate indeed:

Waken faith, increase love, renew hope.
Come, Lord, come!

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2 Responses to Three Poems by Isabel de Gruchy, South Africa

  1. betsy says:

    So very powerful! Thank you, Maren

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