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Author: Ilva Pieterse

Longing in brief

I lie here
Wondering what you feel like in the twilight
When your body
Is neither awake nor asleep
Or how you look
When the moon is full enough to briefly share its horizon with the Sun.

It’s a prison
To know you are somewhere in this world
Yet for me
You exist solely
As aching dreams inside my longing for you
And within a multitude of made-up and edited memories of you.

To think
There’s a weak and diluted shadow of you living
In almost every thought I’ve ever had since meeting you
A sliver of you
Has spread like a stain into almost all of me
Replacing what I used to be
With something I no longer am –
Nor will I ever be.

I’ve become
Nine parts fiction
And one part
Exasperated wishing that I’d never caught your gaze
For that briefest moment
Three years ago in September, at the corner of a busy street at midday.

Read me

Our words
Our worlds
Have tumbled into each other
In a breathless mess
Of semi-sentences
And half-formed phrases
Spoken and felt in decibels of dreaming.

I’m trying not to drown
In the sea of abstract nouns
Vibrating between us
That language has yet to put words to.

Let me speak to you in the voice of my skin
The language I am written in
My body is a book that can only be read by your hands
And only your heart can understand.

If I could recreate reality

If I could recreate reality
I’d soften the finality
Of your forced farewell.

I’d make it so
That I can peel
Your every kiss-shaped memory
From my skin
And keep them in a tin.

So that when I miss
Your goey lips
Against my cheek or chin
I’d simply take them out
And let them kiss themselves
Onto my skin again.

If I could recreate reality
I’d lessen the enormity
Of my endless emptiness.

I’d sew a song
Into the you-shaped hole
Of longing your life left
Imprinted on my soul.
A never-ending
Heart-mending singsong
To fill me and
Fulfill me.

But wait…

If I could recreate reality
I’d have no use for tinned kisses
Or pointless paltry poetry
Or stitches in my soul.

Because you’d be here.
And I’d be whole.

– This was written for my baby girl who recently passed away – 12 days after her first birthday.


Transfixed, I watch the worlds
In your eyes transform
From blue to brown to green
From sea to ground to tree

Framed in wisps of orange flame
Your face alights, your cheeks glow bright

I sing a song about your name:
“Aim far, aim high
Aim star, aim sky
Aim you, aim me
I’m you. You’re me.

My darling daughter
You are my Sun
And around you, I’ll revolve
Eternally turning –
A maternal merry-go-round
On your playground
Of seas and trees and ground.

*Note: I wrote this poem for my beautiful daughter in January 2015. She passed away on 5 February – 12 days after her first birthday.


This poem was written for my 7-month old daughter when she was in hospital recently. She has Down syndrome and was diagnosed with a very rare and serious heart defect, called a truncus arteriosus. She had heart repair surgery and spent 26 days in ICU. She is doing very well since the operation, though. She is a real fighter and, as the poem says, my ultimate inspiration.

Inside me
While you grew and grew
I never knew
Your heart was broken
And that there was one
Where there should’ve been two.

After you were born
The doctor explained
Your lungs wouldn’t last
You were breathing too fast
And growing too slow
Your blood flow was mixed
And you had to be fixed.

So right from the start
Your heart wasn’t whole
But your soul
Was a universe
And your eyes
Were comprised
Of millions of galaxies.
Your body was strong
And your cry was a song.

I named you beloved
And through you, I discovered
For the very first time
I was whole.

Please always remember
You are far more beautiful
Than broken
You are my ultimate inspiration
And I’ll always consider you
My most perfect creation.

Narcissus & Echo

Oh, it was beautiful

When I had but you to fill

When I was one part shadow

Two parts echo

A gecko on the walls of your heart

Through your halls I roamed

Silent from the start

Quiet till the end

I called you home

I called you friend


I was hauntingly unaware

Of my own hapless hollowing

My life spent in following

Your trace element


And so it went

You violence defined me

Your voice redefined me


I was always behind

Bewilderedly blind

I moved to your music

Unconsciously, deliciously, un-nutritiously, and viciously confined

Masochistly misaligned


I was happy to be

For all eternity

Empty infinitely

Forever and ever




The impact of a heartbeat’s echo

In an empty chest

Is hard to ignore


Too prominent to dominate

Too consistently insistent

Hard to quieten


It made me feel twice as alive

And infinitely more aware

Of my undeniable mortality


While your anger pulled me

Hither and thither

It un-fooled me


You’d failed to consider

That in hollowness

Sound is not swallowed

But amplified

Impossible to hide


You had me so empty

And so miniscule

That I almost drowned

In the glorious sound

Of a majestic echo


In the limitless possibilities of my own big bang

I rang and resounded

I sang, unbounded

My freedom new-founded

And I lost sight of your face

Within that sepulchral space

I ceased calling you friend

I stopped living for you


Because I never knew I didn’t end…

But now I do.


I am waiting for the stars to lead me
Away from this late night double-feature
But I just can’t get these scars to leave me

Our time was too short
For me to realise
That a five-star last resort
Was all I was to you

I should have been the wiser
I should have seen the womaniser
In time to stop myself from
Building you inside me

I fell in love with the beauty in the bridges
And the richness of the ridges
Connecting you to me

Can’t you see
How this poetry
Is defined by everything I’ve ever laid my heart on
Every race I’ve ever had a head start on
Every game I’ve ever played a part in
And every end of a new beginning of mine starting?

How can I wake up
Into a new day
When all I have left of you still belongs to this one?

How can I be redone
When I can’t even say
The sounds that make up the music of my name?

How am I supposed to move on
When everything still looks the same?

I’ve bid farewell to the vows we’ll never take
And I’ve said goodbye to the children we’ll never make

Yet I will wait for you indefinitely
And like a dream that’s blown apart
I will wait for you
At the bottom of my heart

I wrote a poem for you

I wrote a poem for you
The day before I met you

When I didn’t yet know a soul can be shipwrecked
Or that the sun can have secrets
When I hadn’t yet learned to look for symptoms
Or dreamed you could become my weakness

You entered me like a sickness
From your first ‘hello’
You whispered my world red
And smiled it yellow

You came to me; a sonnet
A decorated soldier
Dressed in sentences and statements
With which to catch a schoolgirl
In succulent surprise

Your eyes kissed me
Long before your lips did
And under the spectrum of your splendor
My heart bloomed a blushing orchid

I was a slave to my sweet-tooth
You, a dulcit daydream
That knew just how to turn me
From still life into story
And in so doing, you cast me –
A shapeless statue –
Into your private purgatory

You created a planet
With just us living on it
And a snakepit, a sinkhole
With which to swallow me whole

I wrote this poem for you
The day after I met you
I thought it worth to mention
Why I started to regret you

So please pay close attention
(As I’m trying to forget you):

My innocence
Though far from inner sense
Was no less common
Than the unoriginality
Of your sugarcoated sin

Phenomenal reader support

Since posting ‘I’m not depressed’ on 3 November last year, the poem has received over 20 500 views. Reaching so many people and touching many of their lives has been a true inspiration for me. I want to sincerely thank all you readers for taking the time to read my stuff and for all your generous comments. It is this kind of feedback that makes a writer’s work worthwhile!

Keep writing, keep doing


A lucid doodle

With a tracing of my dreams
I’ll draw for you
In the shapes of streams
And the sounds of seas
A lucid doodle
The colour of waterdrops
To show you where my world stops
And my bones begin
I’ll take you to the place
Where my poems sing