‘Greed—the Poem as Deadly Sin’, a new poem by Andries Bezuidenhout

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents a new poem by Andries Bezuidenhout.


Greed—the Poem as Deadly Sin

If it wasn’t for corrupt popes,
the Sistine Chapel would’ve remained unpainted.
If it wasn’t for victories in war,
many compositions would’ve kept silent.
Were certain sculptures not plundered,
they wouldn’t have been preserved in museums.
Art, thus, is corrupt, art is dirty;
art is not created, but perpetrated.

I wonder about this, among Karoo shrub this morning,
watching how a lark screes into the air,
tumbling back again to earth.
Long ago, in the river way over there,
Governor Van Plettenberg came to hunt hippo,
carcasses left behind
as feast for San hunter-gatherers,
eventually a seasonal ritual.

Against igneous rock over there, more engravings—
images of eland, hippo. Everything now gone.
The eland, the hippo, the rock artists.
When sheep farmers moved in, a hippo hunt
was used to lure hunter-gatherers from the koppies,
all then mown down at once with muskets.

What do you say about the lark, about the hippo?
What could a poem about absence and landscapes contribute?
Maybe perhaps only just that this poem is corrupt,
that this poem is dirty, not created,
but perpetrated.


(translated from Afrikaans, Rustum Kozain, Poetry Editor for The JRB)

Previously unpublished, © Andries Bezuidenhout, 2020

  • Andries Bezuidenhout is a poet, painter, musician and academic. He has published two collections of Afrikaans poetry, Retoer (2007) and Veelvuldige gebruike vir huishoudelike toestelle (2014). He has just released his third album as solo musician, titled Onplaats. He lives in Alice and teaches development studies at the University of Fort Hare.
Header image: Juanita Swart on Unsplash

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