Breyten Breytenbach is a poet, playwright, novelist, autobiographer and painter. His influence on Afrikaans literature has been profound, especially through his autobiographical work. His most recent selected poems in English, published under the title Judas Eye (Faber), appeared in 1988. He divides his time between Paris, Spain and a small town in South Africa.

Pretoria - Quand la pluie pend du ciel

when a civil service rain out of the blue
slants against the summer afternoon sinking
like coachtracks, like matches
that flutter and then are slain and smoulder –
then detectives bend over the briefcases
to stow their service revolvers and lunchtins
(tomorrow the crumbs are bloody)
switch off the palm fans
go stand by a window, attentively look and say:
"it's raining"

and up here in the gaol
there is a square earth
ventilated between grey and high walls
with the hard bitter scent of something
that's burning ( or is it a burning
that is being doused? )
a seagull shrieks its scorched feet
and bandiete waiting for it to blow
at the gratings
sniff the passages of air and say:
"it's raining?"

only later the flowers begin to smoke

(translated from Afrikaans by John Mateer)