#5 The year of his birth – Kobus Moolman

Augustus 10, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

He was born under the sign of the Ram.
He was born in the Chinese year of the Dragon. (But unlike most other dragons, he could not fly.)
It was the year after JFK.
It was the year before Ingrid Jonker’s Rook en Oker.
It was the year Martin Luther King became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was the year of the Rivonia Treason Trial.
The year that saw Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and other senior leaders of the ANC receive life sentences in a cold Johannesburg courtroom. A lifetime in prison, barely a few months after he had entered his own life.
And entered it backwards.
Not even feet first.
But arse first. Apparently. The bloody umbilical cord tight around his neck. Like a noose. With only a minute to spare.
The noose that the Rivonia trialists escaped.
The noose that hanged Gwynnes Owen Evans and Peter Anthony Allen that year, the last two people ever to be executed in the United Kingdom.
It was Easter Sunday.
It was a Leap Year.
In the old, red-brick Grey’s Hospital, on the corner of Prince Alfred and Commercial Road.
And only then did they notice it.
The doctor and the nurses.
A small lump of tissue and nerves at the base of his spine.
A small unexplained lump the size of a ping-pong ball.
What to make of it, no one knew.
It was suggested that perhaps it was the leftover of an unformed twin. A mutation of cells that never became anything.
No one really knew. So they left it. Just like that.
And it grew.
From a ping-pong into a tennis ball, before that first year was up.
It was the year of Strangelove.
It was the year of Goldfinger.
Of the first Beatles album to be released in the United States.

Can’t buy me love
Money can’t buy me love
Can’t buy me love …

And then his parents noticed that his right leg was twisted.
Like a woven rope, like a noose. Twisted and floppy as a rope.
And that, although he was a dragon, he had no magic, no spells to keep that rope taut and straight in the air.
Standing all by itself, and climbing. Into the breathless air.
And suddenly everyone knew.
It was clear.
It had a name; that small, growing lump of tissue and nerves and accident at the base of his spine actually had a name:

Senorella and the Glass Huarache!
(The name of the last Looney Tune cartoon produced by the Warner Bros Cartoon Division in the year that he was born.)

But the name of the lump at the base of his spine was far simpler.
In Latin, spina bifida. Or split spine.
According to the website of the US National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke:
“Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect (a disorder involving incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and/or their protective coverings) caused by the failure of the foetus’ spine to close properly during the early months of pregnancy. Infants born with the disorder frequently have an open lesion on their spine where damage to the nerves and spinal cord has occurred. Although the spinal opening can be operated on shortly after birth and surgically closed, the nerve damage is usually permanent, resulting in varying degrees of paralysis of the lower limbs.”  
And that is why this Chinese dragon cannot fly.
Why it gets by on its strong right arm instead. Like a conjurer. And its calloused right hand. Like a ferryman.
Why it has taken to hoarding all manner of gaudy words in its dismal cave, away from the prying eyes of crusaders and heroes in clanking armour; and weaving from these bright baubles such spells that it might almost believe itself airborne and light.
Light as deception.
It was the year after JFK.
It was the year before Rook en Oker.
It was the year the Soviet author Vasily Grossman died, in poverty and isolation, and in deep despair that his great lifework, his masterpiece, Life and Fate, confiscated twenty years earlier by the KGB, would never see the light of day.
It was the year 1964.

3 antwoorde op #5 The year of his birth – Kobus Moolman

  1. Powerful and poetic stuff Kobus. I believe the dragon can take heart: the “gaudy words” have become “bright baubles” indeed and are able to create very powerful spells.

  2. tiah het gesê op Augustus 11, 2010

    Enjoyed this. Still mulling it all over.

  3. Poet Kobus Moolman chats with Janet van Eeden about his new collection, Light and After: http://www.litnet.co.za/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?cmd=cause_dir_news_item&cause_id=1270&news_id=91140

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