New poetry by Simon van Schalkwyk, from Transcontinental Delay

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents new poetry by Academic Editor Simon van Schalkwyk, from Transcontinental Delay, published by Dryad Press. Read an interview with van Schalkwyk about his debut collection.


Transcontinental Delay

They are waiting for you to come back.
You mull this over, chewing ramen absently.
The rooms are bathed in blank light, all the same.
Whatever home is, this could be it.

Outside, the light continues, day for night.
Look at them: vomiting and pissing in the street.
England—the foregone conclusion of Greece and Rome.
Civilizations in decline for the last two thousand years.

You will never find darkness here, a soft cocoon.
The swans beg for clemency; you give them bread.
All’s even now, all square—please move along.
Down to the boathouses, where Chinese lanterns hang

like instruments for wind. Charms, moorings,
riverlights, the small plash of tossed money,
wavelets lapping waterproofed hulls.
Maybe things will be different in the morning

when dawnlight calls for excise, door to door.
Talk to me about latency. Tell me—
ignore the transcontinental delay.
I will wait for your mouth to arrive at my ear,

listening, in the meantime, to the meantime—
listening in, waiting for your voice to traverse
continents, via cables, undersea. This is the cost
of arrival—money for a few minutes of air.

Skogsägarna Mellanskog ek För 

~ Uppsala, Sweden

Lacking sense, having nothing to do but wait,
I left the Hotel Clarion and walked

down, to the Fyris, crossing the footbridge
near the ice-cream stand, and turning down,

like an apostrophe, toward the Stadsrädgården.
The path was clean and empty and I heard

my footsteps falling through the forest,
mid-summer falling through the emerald canopy.

I followed the river, following another
solitary walker, heading out of town.

In a weird clearing, I found a tree house, fallen
from its high perch, fallen into a witchcraft

of splintered sticks. I moved on, unperturbed—
no one arrived to hear the forest breathing.

Resting awhile in a shallow delay beside the river,
I saw a yellow rain boot lost to the river’s silt,

and Pepsi-Cola cans glittering in grass grown long;
grown into that which I had always called meadow.

I moved on, after the call of invisible birds
calling from the castle.

From Transcontinental Delay, © Simon van Schalkwyk, 2021 (Dryad Press)

  • Simon van Schalkwyk is a lecturer in the Department of English Studies at Wits University and is the Academic Editor for The Johannesburg Review of Books. He is a recipient of The Philip Stein Award for Poetry and also of the Mamphela Ramphele scholarship. He has BA Hons and PhD degrees in English literature from the University of Cape Town and an MA in Modern and Contemporary Poetry from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. His poetry has appeared in New Contrast, The JRB and Imago. Transcontinental Delay is his debut poetry collection.
Author image: Simon van Schalkwyk/Composite: The JRB

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

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