Rook en Oker

I have gone searching for my own heart

I have gone searching for my own heart
And long after I have got lost
In the days gone by with their foliage
In blue skies, distant and aloof
I had thought that I would find my heart
Where I held your eyes the two brown butterflies
And I saw the swallow fly up
And shadowy starlings

When you laugh

Your laugh is an open pomegranate
Laugh again
So I can hear the pomegranates laugh

When you were a baby

When you were a baby
You certainly smelt
Like a little he-goat
And flowers

When you sleep

When you sleep
Your forehead is like a mountain
And your temples
Like lambs against the slopes

Never mind the dark man

On the green foot path
Of the far horizon
Around the earth, darling
Walks an old man
With an open moon in his hair
A nightingale in his heart
Freshly picked jasmine for his open button hole
And a bent back from his many years
What does he do, Mommy?
He calls the little crickets
He calls the black
Silence, singing
Like the reeds, sweet heart
And the stars that knock
Tick-tack, darling
Like the small tapping-beetles
In their fairy circle
What is his name, Mommy?
His name is Hush
His name is Sleep
Mister Forget
From the Sleepy Land
His name is never mind
He's called, my lamb
Never Mind, the Dark Man
Never mind, the dark man

My doll breaks in pieces

The shadow warns the street
Flung from a high balcony
Through the scanty jacarandas of the sky
The shadow warns the sun
Through the song of penny flutes
It has fallen on the roaring street
My doll with a name like a body
Like a human it could speak
Like a sparrow my doll was shot
Aiming free hand from the window sill
Or could it have been the wind from afar
Or could it even have been my hand
My doll fell when the sun
Rung its bronze bell in the sky
When the clouds white washed the walls
The shadow fell back inside
The shadow warns the sun
Porcelain with the sky far above
If I should fall from a high balcony
If I should break I would also look like that

- Jonker, Ingrid, Rook en Oker, Afrikaanse Pers, Johannesburg, 1964. All poems translated from the original Afrikaans by William Stewart


back to the Ingrid Jonker memorial page

"She was both a poet and a South African. Confronted by death, she asserted the beauty of life."
Nelson Mandela on Ingrid Jonker
Ingrid Jonker
Picture: © National Afrikaans Literary Museum


Poetry as historical source

In this lesson plan, learners will be able to see that poetry was used as a weapon against the apartheid state, as well as a way of looking forward to a time of freedom and peace. Poetry can tell us a great deal about the personal and political feelings of people in the past.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
A selection of images from Ingrid Jonker’s short life.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Photographs of the memorial to Ingrid Jonker near the beach at Gordon’s Bay.
Audio Archive
Ingrid Jonker reads one of her poems for a 1965 Springbok radio recording. In Afrikaans.
Audio Documentary
Listen to Ingrid Jonker’s biographer, Petrovna Metelerkamp, and other friends talk about Ingrid’s life.
A 360° view of the sculpture on Beach Road in Gordon's Bay.
A Tribute to Ingrid Jonker
In his inaugural address to Parliament in May 1994, President Nelson Mandela read Ingrid Jonker’s poem, "The Child"