A Meditation on Certain Times and Places

(Celebrating the life of Gerald Kraak at his wake*)
by Stephen Faulkner

Joburg –
The cold facts first.
Cancer
Spreading
Creeping into secret crevices
Closing down organs
Snatching breath
Almost stealing hope
Almost
Too soon
Too soon
Then the slipping slipping
Quietly away……….

Amsterdam –
I am not fighting for ‘them’
I refuse to be part of the problem
How I miss you all
I will not twiddle my thumbs
We must build our own anti-army
Of resistors
How I miss you all
The politics on the outside
Almost as scary
As the politics on the inside
How I miss you all
I will not be settled
I am not resident
Please visit when you can
How I miss you all
How I miss you all

London –
It’s nice out.
Those long night strolls
Through Highbury Fields and Finsbury Park
To the pub
The fickle English
Their living caricatures
Of Cor Blimey and Watcha Mate!

Archway North London –
The claustrophobia of exile politics
Relieved only by countless movies
And an abundance of live music
An occasional glass of vino
And a whiskey
Or Two…..
Four, Six, Eight
Motorway with the Tom Robinson Band
Jo Strummer’s London Calling
Coming to life
Thatcher’s strife
And King Arthur’s glorious Flying Pickets

And all in Defence and Aid
Of those at home
Imprisoned and abused
By the absurdity
Of a merciless racial stratification
And the great lumbering cart horse
Of the British TUC
Showing what not to become
To the new emerging giant at home
Intent on Breaking the Chains
Threatening to shake down
Both the shrill desiccated certainties
Of the Cold War apparatchiks
And the comfortable semi-comatose
In their citadels of privilege

Away the cynical secretive securocrats
On both sides
Away then
Away now!
Even from afar
The whiff of compromise
Hung and stung in the air
Coming Home –
How we discussed the possibilities
Of what had to be done!
At picnics
In meetings
At parties
At work
Our jaws ached from talking

But before long
The sharp contrasts that once drove us
Fudged into shades of grey
Grey suits
Grey beards
Grey minds
Polished heads!
And courage was suddenly required
To restate the simplest of changes that were needed
Changes so artfully and convincingly articulated
That for a moment
They were adopted as the norm

But not for very long
As the fearful and vested interests
Exerted and inserted themselves
Preserving only
A once heroic
Once seductive
But now
An empty cloying rhetoric

Being Home –
So many of us were lost along the way
Some of us were not
And used our skills from exile
To became facilitators
Of space
Of enquiry
Of movement
Of surreptitious rebellion
Of an Other Foundation
Even when imprisoned
In a wretched project log frame
It was one way to continue
And we worked hard and did
For as long as we could

Staying Home –
Many of us
Go about our lives
In the not so new dispensation
Bemoaning still
The ugly separateness
In our almost monochrome dinner parties
Our almost monochrome social lives
Can it really be
That only the blurred margins
Of the elite
Have changed?

Always Home –
Most of those old friendships
Forged in the hell that was
Remain welded
And essential
New friendships
Have given encouragement to keep on
To stay outside of luxurious paralysis
To Feel the Ice in the Lungs
To still feel the rumble of movement
Not fully lost
To be alert to possibility
Even when it required
A double shot on the rocks
To really rock!

Heart –
A sibling’s child
Leaps into a swimming pool
I watch as a precious god-child
Stretches upwards and overtakes me
And I am alive and happy
This confirms the difference
Between being alone
And being lonely
Never really alone
Given all those
Down down the years
Who have reached out
Keen to ensure
A special continuity
Celebrated today
With an outpouring
Of love
And laughter.

———————————————–

* The Wake Today
In more recent times a wake is a social gathering held after a funeral or, in Ireland, often after the death but before the funeral. Traditionally people drink and talk about the dead person, and there is a happy jovial atmosphere.
* The Wake in Fluid Dynamics
In fluid dynamics, a wake is the region of disturbed flow (usually turbulent) downstream of a solid body moving through a liquid, caused by the flow of the fluid around it. In incompressible fluids such as water, this results in a wave. As with all wave forms it spreads outward from the source, usually until its energy is overcome or lost by friction or dispersion, but its impact can be considerable and lasting.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

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