Athol Fugard in Stellenbosch

(Written after witnessing Athol Fugard in public conversation with Mannie Manim, Woordfees, Stellenbosch, March 2013)

Athol Fugard: like a rock
He sits there
Like a boulder on the veld
As the cars spear past
But he won’t be moved
He is like Agamemnon
Until the sudden, dramatic end
Claiming now he will disappear
Into the mists of time
And yet he looks, he looks
The very opposite of vapour:
Hewn from kiaat
Sculpted with rough, precise hands
Cut into shape
A chiselled profile –
That’s what he is
A silhouette of form
He has sharp opinions
Unqualified feelings
There is no mincing of words
He has softened
But he comes from a thirsty land
His memory runs deep
Cuts to the bone
He knows how it feels
To live outside city lights
On the freezing outskirts
In the mud
He knows Boesman, and Lena, and Outa
He ran away from learning
To taste the hard salt of living
To squeeze riches
From a fountain pen
Bleeding, he says, bleeding
Onto a blank page
Bearing witness
He knows how brutal it is
To walk through space and time
Taking the blows
And look, there he is, still
Look how sturdy
Still, at Agamemnon 80 and more
Look how strong
How admirable
His wholly impossible desire
To disappear into the mists
Of place and time

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