Maverick Citizen

Days of Coronavirus

Unlocked: Poems for Critical Times (Part Four)

Unlocked: Poems for Critical Times (Part Four)
William Kentridge Drawing for The Head & the Load, 2018 Charcoal and red pencil on found ledger pages 28 x 31 cm

In this feature by Maverick Citizen, twice a week, poet Ingrid de Kok selects a South African poem that sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely, addresses the question of how to imagine ourselves, how to be, in the current situation.

In 2019 NATi (Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater-inisiatief) commissioned poet Antjie Krog to write a mass with composer Antoni Schonken which was performed at Woordfees as well as Poetry International in Rotterdam. The text has since taken on a poetic life of its own. Below is an extract in English and the original Afrikaans.


A Mass for our Fragile Earth  (extract)

text: how can we care for the planet if we do 

not care for one another / how can we care for 

one another if we do not care for the planet?  


Breathe … breathe … breathe … breathe … breathe … breathe

OPENING WORDS:                                                          

I greet you in the name of the Earth,
The love of the Sun,
And the communion of Holy Oxygen

Come, let us confess our sins against the planet and our neighbour: 

We confess our sins in penitence and faith.
We sin daily inordinately in what we irreparably harm,
in what we irreparably destroy of the earth and one another,
through what we do and through what we refrain from doing.
We wounded your abundance.
We marred your equilibrium.
We are ashamed and filled with remorse.
Guilt, we carry great guilt.

Have mercy upon us.
Oh human-encompassing Earth – have mercy upon us poor dullards.


SOL MISERERE NOBIS: Sun, have mercy on us.
AQUA MISERERE NOBIS: Water, take pity on us.
AER AMPLECTERE NOS: Oxygen, embrace us.

by what name shall we address the universe
other than the un-revealed word: God?

I am God! cries the winter grass in plains of frost white flax
I am God! cry the children steering a soccer ball through the dust
I am God! cries the family next to the bobbing rubber boat
I am God! glows the oil-covered sea

holy holy holy – the hills lift their tulle-blue breaths
and we kneel before the unutterable mercy of Treeness:

O Supreme Mountainness, turn us into Thy envoy of Cloudness
Thy proselytes of Autumn, Thine abbots of Water
we lay ourselves down in adoration, O Summerapricotness
and glorify the life-seething oxygen mantles of Star-lipped bliss 


Oh Hosanna to the Trees 

SANCTUS isiKhoba – holy Yellowwoodforest
SANCTUS umKhangele – holy Teak tree
SANCTUS umNga – holy Thorntree
SANCTUS isiQwane – holy Beech
SANCTUS umThombothi – holy Tamboti
SANCTUS umThombe – holy Wild Fig 


Our most fragile Earth, stretching into the universe,
hallowed be Thy Existence.
Let us hail Thee as a Kingdom.
Let us protect Thee,
Thy complete surface
as we should Thy depths. 

Give us this day our daily light,
tempered water, photosynthesis, and bread.
Our pollution Thou cannot forgive
as well as our abuse and destruction of one another.

Lead us into the temptation to love Thee above everything else, 
to deliver Thee from all toxic disgrace. 

For Thine is this place in the universe, 
and its power, its abundance and delightful equipoise,
for ever and ever.


Go in Peace and glorify the Fragility of life.
Go and preach the hymn of water,
the lease of the earth, and everything that is sustainable in it, on it and out of it.
Go and become Carers of the Earth and shoulder her Precious yoke

breathe … breathe …  breathe … breathe …   breathe … breathe

 O Brose Aarde – (uittreksel)

TEKSVERS: hoe kan ons die planeet versorg as ons nie mekaar versorg 

nie / hoe kan ons mekaar versorg as ons nie die planeet versorg nie?  

asem  asem asem  asem asem asem


Wees gegroet in die naam van die Aarde
die liefde van die Son
en die gemeenskap van die Heilige Suurstof

Kom, laat ons ons sondes bely teenoor die aarde en ons naaste: 

Ons bely dat ons uitermate sondig deur mekaar,
en die aarde wat ons onderhou, daagliks
te beskadig en te vernietig
deur wat ons doen
en versuim om te doen.

Ons het u oorvloed verwond.
Ons het letsels op u ewewig gelaat.
Ons skaam ons en is gevul met berou. 

Skuld, ons dra skuld.
Ons dra almal groot skuld.

 Wees ons genadig.
O Allesomvattende Aarde – wees ons arme stommerikke genadig.


by watter naam roep ons die universum aan
anders as die on-ontslote naam God:

ek is God! roep die wintergras wat die vlaktes rypwit vlas
ek is God! roep die kindertjies wat sokkerballe deur die stowwe stuur
ek is God! roep die gesin langs die deinende rubberboot
ek is God! glans die plastiekbesmette see 

heilig heilig heilig hef die heuwels hulle tulle-blou asems
en ons kniel voor die onuitspreekbare genade van Boomheid: 

O Allerhoogste Bergheid, maak ons u gesante van Wolkheid
u proseliete van Herfs, u ab van Water
ons strek ons in aanbidding neer, O Somerappelkooskindheid
ons lofprys die leefsuisende suurstofmantels van Sterlipsaligheid

SOL MISERERE NOBIS: Son, erbarm u (oor ons)
AQUA MISERERE NOBIS: Water ontferm u (oor ons)
AER AMPLECTERE NOS: Suurstof, omhels ons


Hosanna aan die Bome. 

SANCTUS isiKhoba – heilige Geelhoutboomwoud
SANCTUS umKhangele – heilige Kiaat
SANCTUS umNga – heilige Soetdoring
SANCTUS umNquma – heilige Olienhoutboom
SANCTUS isiQwane – heilige Boekenhout
SANCTUS umThombothi – heilige Tambotie
SANCTUS umThombe – heilige Wildevyeboom


Onse Brose Aarde wat onder die universum uitstrek,
laat U Bestaan vir ons heilig word,
laat ons U sien as ’n koninkryk,
laat ons U oppas,
u ganse oppervlakte
net soos ook u dieptes.
U gee ons elke dag
ons daaglikse lig, getemperde water, fotosintese en brood
maar ons besoedeling kan U nie vergeef nie,
ook nie ons mishandeling en vernietiging van mekaar nie;
lei ons in die versoeking om U bo alles lief te hê
U te verlos van alle etterende ontering.
Want aan U behoort dié punt in die heelal
en sy krag, sy oorvloed en heerlike ewewig tot
in die oneindigheid. 

O vergeef ons ons skulde
en wees ons genadig.


Gaan in vrede en verheerlik die Broosheid van die Lewe
Gaan heen en verkondig die himne van Water,
die pag van die Aarde, en alles wat volhoubaar daarin, daarop en daaruit bestaan.
Gaan heen, word Versorgers van die Aarde en skouer haar kosbare Juk.

asem … asem … asem … asem … asem … asem …


A big thank you to William Kentridge for generously allowing us to use his 2018 drawing for The Head & the Load, Charcoal and red pencil on found ledger pages, to illustrate the poems. 


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