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Poems by Allan Kolski Horwitz


Thirty second HIV test: positive or negative status indicated by the number of vertical stripes formed after a drop of blood has been introduced into a special solution contained in a small receptacle.



One line     or      two lines

never three lines

that’s the way it works

in this truth story


one   line          



blood drips onto the plastic boat

you take a voyage to far off places

dark heaving places where your heart clots

becomes swollen saggy yellowish sacs


     one line      



blood hits the boil

breath blows up a high pressure zone

eyes squirm with salt

a dead lifetime floats into the future

sunrays shine bright

even     as they      waver


                                    one line          



only pulse beats away

the beginning or end of hot or cold kisses

seconds in which the mind and the memory

infect soft wet mucous


    one line       



the ship’s doctor readies a white coat

furies leer along the coastline

you will bless or damn this voyage

but you cannot choose where to drop anchor

the choice long made     long lived

or was it?


one line



the crew’s down below

all those baring your sex

can you remember his or her face in the dark?

the slide into and out of that body

the heat

do you recall any cuts     any sores in the days after?

do you recall any scratches?


one line



you crouch as waves wash the deck

seek a life boat

where’s your jacket?

the escape hatch is locked


O                  T L

N                                      I

E                     W                    N

L                                        E

I                   O                       S




three’s a crowd           in this pathology

that’s how it spreads


you can’t stop





A line from a poem by an inmate of ‘Sun City’ (Diepkloof Prison, Johannesburg)


Maximum security:       murderers     rapists     hijackers

minimum sentence:                   fifteen years


some seek to smuggle their hearts out

smuggle out the bruises


branded in orange suits      sterilized monks

divided according to their studies

ability to manage the daily blur of lockup

without shrieks   conspiracies to escape

without records of internal mayhem

boxed in with a            double-bunk     table     toilet    radio     tv

a few  books to blot out the shiny concrete walls

boxed by scissor-sharp grill bars  across a window

three men together so if one is killed

there’ll be a witness


they watch the clock hands with or without hope

with or without fear

for whatever happened      happened

whatever took place at some place    at some time

took place at some time

and now each day they must wake to boiled food

coarse and joking warders

smells of  a cage      the smells of other cages

stiff cocks   or dead/soft

they must wake in the nights        clutch their blankets

clutch themselves

clutch at the saviour sugared by chaplains


and these clean shaven men bring us their poetry

their cries and rants     their whispers


yes      some dare to look within the deeds

that cost life     cost them their lives


these men bring out their poems

these clean thin smiling men

recite and chant    then listen intently    applaud ours

they come to dispel dead weight

starched sterile strips of living

these poems made of the guts of those who

took dignity     took limbs     took trust

took away from unknown  strangers

took away from those they loved

those who loved them


yes    some have visions of those

they murdered     raped      savaged     soiled


and we sit in the rec room

try to paint faces on the smooth walls

the blank benches

word-seed fertilizing minutes    hours   months   the years

ground out in this prison

we dissect     give voice to the karma of crime

embrace the bearers of guns of knives

who carry no horns     no jagged finger nails

no scars running from ear to neck

no gaping mouths      no hunched backs

no foul breath swamping our noses


and they sit in rows and laugh

shout “bua!” when the mood rises

and the poetry  lifts

and the poet entranced     entrances


some few dare dream beyond this time

      make instead of break


and we wonder at the world tribunal

the judges and the victims

who chorus  a relentless refrain

its necessary sentence of retribution and waste


we wonder at  this bringing evil and good

to the same table

this yoking of pain to the present

this wheel strapping us to nothing and madness

driving the hope of forgiveness    of erasure

of release


we sit in the stale starched recreation room

and for an hour recreate this world

make it a place to live well

and when we leave i am able to ask these marauders

these violators:


“you who kill time for the crimes you committed

can you become the dandelions you wish to be

in this desert?

can you now know yourselves and love others?

can you prove yourselves wrong?

can you prove yourselves right?







Herds rivening the plain      dust clouds blanket their rear

thousand year trail of wildebeest       zebra       gazelles


and in the rivers they must cross to reach the fresh grass

and along their banks

those creatures    that live off their flesh

the crocodile      the lion      the leopard

even hippos roused from muddy pens

by the thrashing of frenzied flanks

all these creatures shaken by the thundering hoof-beat

waves of grass-eaters crashing into the current

dust-caked herds     sweat-stained

running towards jaws tickling the long grass


and so the wind blowing downstream unsheathes reddening claws

submerged snouts bubble the water       serrated rows ready to rip

furious with instinct

devoted celebrants of this over-riding boisterous blind movement

this pulse of strength      speed        cunning

this agony of the dying unable to staunch

the undying jubilation of survivors


for days the dust rises

herds roll     stampede

blood pumps and spills and gushes

everything victorious





A Question for Vlladimir Illyich Lenin


The beggar taps at the car window

shows his stump


the driver looks into his blood-shot eyes

looks at his rags

tells him about boom and bust

cycles of supply and demand

the movement for deregulation of lust


the beggar says ‘bread, any bread, boss”


the driver rolls down the window

tells the beggar about rampant short-changing

price-fixing and insider trading

how monopolies are gobbling

how today’s rising stock  is tomorrow’s collapse


the beggar sniffs, scratches his matted hair    


the driver tells him about pyramids and plots in the sea

over-invoicing     round-tripping

tax havens      tax schemes      tax  holidays

cartels and cabals


the beggar thrusts his one hand forward

     “anything to hold me together, chief”


the driver tells the beggar no amount of glue

can fix the world

no amount of patching can cover the cracks


the beggar at the window waits for the driver

to feed him more than fear       more than rage

more than fantastical accounts of disaster


the driver shakes his head     turns away

rolls up the window


the beggar spits


the driver watches the spit roll down the window

into the street


the beggar stands in his puddle of spit


the light turns green

the driver drives on his way

and day revolves and Cain kills Abel

and then Abel kills Cain in the next life 





him:  This life is a hard road. I want the best 4 u. may love give us courage

  her 1:  I tink its better if we both move on wit our lives pls

her 2:  Hie truly it is, yes definitely our love and GOD wil give us courage. Thnx, sleep wel

    her 3:    If only love could pay the bills then ill be happy. Gudnite. Im out of airtime

her 4: I knwlifestufbts I swear nothngwil make me to fail to make u happy n be ur future wife.

I love u ne




Cove, south of the Storms River


Sucked out to sea by the rivers

then beached by the tides

these salted beams of white bone

creviced               c  o  n

t   o    r

te d

wracked trunks and branches

fibrous mottled arms

crusted   calcified beyond rot

left sprawled in an alcove


as you crest the hill you will see them

jammed together      pale with seagull shit

the sculpted stumps

grave with elongated agony



Found poem


We will never eat the bread of the Dutch again

We will eat our bread buttered with blood

We will never eat the bread of the Dutch again


I, Tromp van Madagascar, Age 20

I, Cupido van Batavia, Age 30

I, Jeroen van de Malijste Cust, Age 24

I, Neptunis van Bima, Age 20

we, bondsmen of the former burgher councilor Nicholas Oortmans


I, Titus van de Caab, Age 22

I, Joumat van Ternaten, Age 40

I, Pasqual van Spaanse Wes Indies, Age 30

We, bondsmen of dispencier, Sieur Johannes Swellengrebel


I, Thomas van Bengalen, Age 30

I, Anthonij van Mallebaar, Age 40

we, slaves of  the farmer Christoffel Esterhuijs


Have willingly, without torture or threat of bonds, of irons,

Or even the least threat of these,

Confessed and admitted

That the first prisoner, Tromp,

With Hanibal, alias knap een Deuntjie,

Who has been shot dead,

Did not scruple nor hesitate

To incite many slaves to flee


That we conferred with one another

And agreed never to return again to our masters

And to head for the land of the Portuguese

Never again will we eat the bread of the Dutch

Never again will we bow our heads

Never again will we smile for mercy


We, bondsmen, slaves held at the Cape, at the tip of Africa

We seized guns and flour and made our escape