Special Features


by Mick Raubenheimer.

Illustrations by Rynier Prins.


“It is said that writing about music is the equivalent of dancing about architecture. Mick Raubenheimer, however, grasps in Bukowskian prose the embodied, emotional and cerebral qualities of improvisation, as well as the torsions of South African music subcultures. Writing about improvised music requires the disruption of form. Using irruptive anecdotes and in capturing interruptive moments of listening, Raubenheimer comes as close as is possible to the qualities of the music itself.
Staid histories of South African jazz inevitably regulate the music. Mick Raubenheimer captures musical events in all their disruptive singularity.”

Michael Titlestad, Professor of English, WITS.



Chapter 1: Darkness pass.

i Worship at the deep aromatic situation of the wild forests of Femme which is why women love my yang. We were listening to Zappa’s Return Of The Son Of Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar again because Donna loves Vinnie’s drumming.
Donna was doing strange and dangerous and delicious things to me while we were cruising through space on the N1 at 72 kmph.
Love that fucking solo.


Chapter 39: Da Funk.

We were shrooming so we had to walk a touch faster so that we got to the beach before our pumpkin turned chariot or we metamorphed into a base element of our immediate environment. Who wants to be part dead tar part manifold exhaust when you can be composed of coral and whale vagina and mermaid calcium and squid wart and Great White sperm?
We were listening to Carlo Mombelli’s Theory and he was singing a song of deep loss and transformation through the bass and Siya Makuzeni’s gifted vox. She always insisted we share earphones (she left, mono, me right mono) so that we were half in/ half out the outer environment and inner earspace.
‘Llandudno,’ she mouthed, the corners of her mouth perking up like the cutest shit you ever done seen. Her pussy was alive in covert traces and hues and spark and codes hid along the public contours of her physical soul by a naughty god. Her mouth, though neutral when neutral, became a PG-13 vagina when she was coy or smiling implatonically or plain chuckling. When she orgasms that mouth goes full punani – a pinkly pink cavern brimming with newly erogenous, stark white teeth and lolling, massively sexy tongue creature like sex manifest – crashing and tumbling from calciate riverbank to splashing salival waves all electricitous circuitry of taste and hormones and naked wet texture. Lolling crashing burning licking sucking. Her mouth is so snug that when she fellates me I visualize tactilely her entire oral chamber filling up – pink tonguebeast mute pushed flat and liquid and squirming, teeth violently ignored in my must – with my hot strain, its angered, pulsating arteries. My dangerous head full of humming ideas and creamed lightning.
We got there just in time, Mombelli’s prior album, ‘Me the mango picker’, gently plucked out of our ears behind ears. The beach was near abandoned. Perfect.
Clasping anticipant hands we giggled like tiny newborn gods and became the beach respectively – a new, vast, sonorously silent organism from two distinct angles.
Later at home we tried desperately to make love and dismally, cataclysmically failed and laughed till the world giggling hurt. Our bodies were not yet ours again. We ate Chili Cheese Nax, then later succeeded in building the complexity that was 2-minute noodles – an epiphany of palatic sophistication. Then went for a fond, slow stroll.
I love that woman loads.


Chapter 555: Hard Hat Jive.

Keenan Ahrends and Reza Khota were communing with their respective gods via 2x 6 strings (1x electric 1x semi-acoustic fretted with ellipse and potent semi-colon) with just the tonight particularly snaky Jonno Sweetman on drums. Swathes of sound somnambulent like Klimt conducting some sex-starved Moroccan princess’ dreams via metallic tones. Sexy and abstract. Scary and inviting as Monica Bellucci uncrossing and recrossing humming legs in a simple, tight cut, off-white matt skirt.
I squeeze her hand quickly and she leans over, a hot mess of murmur in my right ear, “your place.” Which was code for manly man sex – fond manhandlement and such – bare, bruised furniture. Sofa crunched into a corner; mangled sweaty rug or carpet or whatever. My place was scantily furnished. Music and food and obstacles over and through and across which to tumble the howling. My upper thighs and triceps would be talking for days. For daze.
Lovers leave temporal auras on oneother, when they care (to) – lingering scent; ebbing throbbing remnants of pain or ache; snarls on skin; heart’s lament or missing; random bursts of vivid mnemony. So we ornament the Other with our traces, weakening or diluting or negatively dilating the trespass of others.
Reza Khota is my favourite South African guitarist, hands up, and I do not ken exactly why. It has I hazard to do with two things – a capacity for self-immolation or immediate transcendence (flipsides of the phoenix’ essential verb) and a more mysterious and hid agency. Something which dodgy but arcane and anciently talented Hollywood agents refer to, simply, as It.


Chapter 33: While you were out.

Four at night.

On occasion she
goes to bed around
her bed is
a sacred space
gentle ting
soft humming aromas
the quiet sweat of her forehead
in fore thought and quizzical hind
the eternal yum
{twee sterre het ek meneer}
{wil meneer lees?}
the soft pink scent
when she’s
dreamt of yellow
oliphants cradling the moon as some kind of man with a stark erection
singing her menacing songs sinistral
to moist danger blossom that wild sacred cycle which brings focused blood and matter when no child yawns wildly in
The slight,
behind Both
her knees
(she has two legs {ke a leboga Modimo!} and
somewhere they meet like making love is a geo
graphed an
{inkosi Nkulunkulu!}
She goes to bed at eleven sometimes just
so she may
wake at
and sit
on the merry lawn
(midnight’s ants rambling some code en route to that particular plant no man will ever ken the name of)
And smile
at the friendly young moon


Chapter 40: Digital inability.

The crowd was talking over the music like it was some eight-year old kid they were pointedly ignoring. Indignation stifled my breathing and I tried to look straight ahead so as not to let Ngwedi see the flush of disgust on my face. When someone at some vague, now throbbing coordinate to my back and left laughed out loud in the middle of Alex Boza’s lead I flinched or spasmed visibly.
“You okay bud?”
I could not look at her and mumbled something about a cigarette and stood up and left pursuing some invisible vent with my irreal ciggie.
The fact that Tagores and Straight No Chaser had closed shop within the same fortnight had been a morose, ominous omen. The weird cream of SA’s musical avant-garde were forced to play to coincidental audiences. To me this was a sacrilege of holy, unspoken laws.
When I returned she kissed my still hot cheek sweetly and squeezed my hand. “Don’t worry, they’re oblivious.”
Ngwedi was not stating the obvious fact of the ignorantly insensitive gathered. She was coaxing me to note that – and it snapped suddenly and beautifully into focus – the band was in self-salient space and untouched by the casual snickering and WhatsApping and arguing and snogging and chomping and gossiping pockets and belches of people.
I joined her in basking in Benguela’s beautifully drunken boat churning through hallucinant seas and blind, dreaming currents.
“Thanks babely,” I kissed atop her forehead.
That evening I made her a wonky and ambitious four-course meal abstracted by marijuana and we watched Arrested Development Season 2 till we died. “…dollar suit. COME ON!!!”


Chapter 14: In the woods tonight.

Me and Jo were attending Tony Cox’s latest Guitar in the Woods workshop, which was to be followed by a tiny, kinda-secret-though-he-did-inform-students-via-newsletter mini performance of his first, newliest instrumental work since the delightful steep into singer-songwriter territory ‘Enormous flowers’. We had secretly signed up not so much to have our morose, several left-footed fingers be sympathetically taught by his elegantly fretted mind, but to experience the new material unfurling in the woods, at night, and stuff.
Tony’s album ‘Looking for Zim’ kinda threw a spanner into my young, pompous belief at 16 that ‘True Jazz, Good Jazz, cannot come from Africa, much less South Africa.’ Dustiest funk I ever did hear up until that moment and a long while after in spliced time/space. And the title track’s Hanmer break is still one of my favouritest Jazz piano moments ever. Hands down. Feets in the air.
Maita Basa Mr. Cox!
[ Postscript, pre-concert:
Jo: “So.. isn’t the mini-gig supposed to start soon?”
Mick: “Look for the tree with the most generous girth.”
Jo: “Speak English boy.”
Mick: “Look for the tree with the widest trunk.”
Jo: “{rolls lovely green eyes} okay then what?”
Mick: “Then wait for the plumes of thick blue smoke.”
Jo: “Oh shit. I see it!”
Mick: “That’s Tony. Gig starts in three minutes.”]


Chapter 17: A forest became.

The day remains vividly impressed into the nape of what some might call my romantic soul. Weather Report’s deliciously funky but bordering on kitsch album Heavy Weather was playing in the background (in the selective dimensions of my memory, the record was looped throughout the ecstatic ordeal) – it was my first exposure to Pastorius’ slinky, phat, over-the-top yet supremely justified playing – and this was my focus while she was, invisibly behind me somewhere, coaxing a tiny happy joint into definition. She supped fleetingly on my bobbing earlobe and said that word in that way that only erotically self-conscious women can: “Come..” I turned around and grinned at her face – oddly expressionless, save for a far-off twinkle in the eyes. She stood up, dressed in my Soundgarden SuperUnknown t-shirt and nothing but. She walked off, a touch slower than necessary, towards the patio, and for a swaying moment I studied the movement of her hips, before following like some mute beast of worship.
The high started off in a silly zone, us giggling about the cartwheeling absurdity of the universe and its oddly phenomena, me doing wonky, mildly strenuous dances to the measured cacophony coming from the record player inside. I only subconsciously noted a stillness within or behind her chuckling form with its self-conscious bounty self-consciously obscured – half a swell of left breast here, the negative space of her lovely tummy there, the happy riding of my shirt’s bottom seam along her upper thighs. As my eyes began focusing more on her concealed curves and swerves my merry mania began slowing down and the banter itself quietened. Only Zawinul remained, very faintly, audible somewhere in some galaxy far far behind us.
She smiled brightly, kissed me on my forehead (a first), stood up and wandered into the lounge, me following on some hidden leash.
It was the first time I had sex stoned. I stood staring at her bending over (knowingly naked under my cozy tee) to put on some unknown (though it was mine), similarly funky record, I didn’t hear much at this point because she – through some occult radiation available to all sensual women and only certain men – was suffusing the air.
We became a creature of many and moving scented limbs and mouths, and she became a forest. A forest of skin and me lost and finding dizzy more intensities of flavour and pheromone and textural moistures and somewhere strange, familiarly haunting sounds which I chased with my cock, drawing nearer and nearer through volume. We fucked for hours, drenched in each’s other but time had slipped out back and what remained was purely spatial, like matter minus time plus suspense. I don’t follow math.
We broke up two years later, my only amicable fall-out.


Chapter 20: I sank into the night.

There was a foreboding aspect to the evening air standing outside Tagores sharing a spliff with some guy with a menacing scar I was itching to ask about. In telepathic response, just before we headed in, having shared very few words and little eye contact, he scratched it. Once inside we bumped fists (he had the overgrown knuckles of a man who has stood over many a felled foe) and parted ways, but as he turned away to disappear into the slight but motley crowd he mumbled something about someone going to burn. These parting words didn’t concern me until they started bothering me, fed by bubbles of paranoia gathering at the base of my back. Who was going to burn? Were they going to burn literally, and why? Or did he mean the band? It was the Benjamin Jephtha quartet with a UK-based guy called Shabaka Hutchings as soprano sax guest.
The opening tracks, lazily undulating, with an inspired bass solo from Jephtha on the third, calmed my nerves. And then a seemingly eight-foot tall Hutchings stepped into the spotlight and proceeded to slaughter. The onslaught was not crude, this guy knew what he was doing, but it felt contrapuntal to the composition framing him – at odds with the then laid-back vibe of the quartet. I suddenly understood what Mr. Sinister had said and mild paranoia turned into a kinda anxious giddiness. During his third solo, on the second track he featured on, he had smelted the band into his zone – all out melodic audacity and tightly leashed rhythmic tourettes. Visual hallucinations started filtering the tiny crowd out – occasional flashes of stark light blue interrupting ffwd narratives of jungle chases alternating between the perspectives of prey/hunter.
After the gig (between the two five-track sets I just sat on the floor and inhaled mottled oxygen) I stepped out for a sweating cigarette. “Mick!!” a familiar feminine voice called out. We embraced fondly – I hadn’t seen Ngwedi in three months. “Christ,” I muttered. “Jeazus,” she confirmed. After a brief exchange during which she told me about Hutchings’ Sons of Kemet we were in my car, Me’Shell Ndegecello’s ‘Peace Beyond Passion’ pretending not to watch as I delicately placed a fingertip of precum into her mouth and she literally squirmed in her seat, “My boyfriend is picking me up in ten.”
I slipped two fingers into her mouth as she hungrily unzipped me.
I sank into the friendly night.


Chapter 177: Theory.

Carlo Mombelli was regaling the assembled with a meandering anecdote of a dream he’d had about Henri Matisse as an Nguni herdsman eating weird roots with the Moon in the mysteries of morning in Kwaz Lowlands.
I was distracted because her hips kept bumping against mine gently and almost peripherally – a startling, unpredictable metronome triggering disturbingly visual flashbacks from the eve/morn before into the tiny, vibrantly focused mind of my phallus.
“Ass for days.”
She said that around 02:13 going on 05:47 – my mouth was no longer lingual – stuffed as it was with trembling, poison-gilted bouquets feeding off my salival voluptuity.
“Pharmakon – the root of the term pharmaceutical – is an ancient eskimo legend wherein it is written on whatever it is that they write it on down there that Poison is Medicine and Medicine Poison, just depends on the When. Come smoke my Herb.”
“Maybe less with the talk for a bit, m’kay?” I pleaded,
then said: “Bring me your forests.” (in baritone.)


Chapter 10: Jo.

A sunlit spot appeared in the humid lineaments of nocturnal time. We looked at each other in complete, platonic peace, only our sweat-radiant faces belying our primal wrestling from a moment (season) before. She gave a quick, small smile, like a nod, and we dove back into ecstatic war until morning alarms rang the bell to force us into our respective corners of the amorous ring. Her left leg spilt over my breathing, supine shoulder, our chests slowly settling into heated peace. Sacra glowing.
Once the sun slid us back into conscious awareness she yawned herself upright and declared a picnic was on the menu. In between mouthfuls of fruit and gorgeously layered toasted sandwiches and the obligatory cheeses and calamatas we argued guitar solos. She loved the electric crescendos of what I called pedestrian Rock guitar solos, precisely, she said, because of their predictability, “like the last leg towards orgasm.. Sure it’s essentially Pop formula but I love the crackling distortion and whoops of electric guitar solos.” She considered Jazz, specifically avant-garde Jazz, in terms of general improv-allowing composition and especially soloing to be mere meandering wankery. “There’s just no cumshot.”
I kept my retort to myself and we just looked at each other, bodies humming as we realized the nearby mumblings of fellow picnickers had slipped away and that we had subconsciously chosen a spot obscured by deep trees. She pulled off her pink Gummi Bears t-shirt.



An e-publication by Botsotso
Compiled by Mike Alfred and Allan Kolski Horwitz

Some months ago Mike Alfred and I decided to compile an anthology of new poems about Joburg. There have been many written in the past but we felt we needed to give a contemporary view (as expressed by poets) given the vast changes in the city over the past twenty-five years – some positive but many negative, reflecting the general impact of ANC rule on a post-apartheid South Africa.

Unfortunately, no funding over the covid period has been accessed for a hard copy version but not wanting to delay the project indefinitely, we decided to instead create an e-publication and post it on the Botsotso website.

As this is a work in progress (we have not in way edited the poems), we are still open to submissions and hope that at some point funding will be available to enable the publication of a comprehensive and illustrated version.

Allan Kolski Horwitz
10 January 2021




  1. Jozi my Jozi  Dimitri Martinis
  2. Bose bja Gauta  Moses Seletiša
  3. Horizon  Renos Nicos Spanoudes
  4. In the Aftermath  Gail Dendy
  5. The City  Thomas Abram Seloman
  6. Non-Delivery  Allan Kolski Horwitz
  7. Joburg Suite  Afzal Moolla
    a. The Johannesburg Rains
    b. Johannesburg Blues
    c. Jo’burg Moonlight
    d. Old Sof’town
  8. The Colour of Freedom  Lorraine Burne
  9. Why [do I love Joburg]?  Mike Alfred
  10. South Africa  Mbali Tshabalala
  11. All That Glitters  David Jeppe
  12. We can Touch the Sky  Kerry May
  13. No, I am not Looking for my Father  Mphae Charmaine Mashifane
  14. On the Way  Allan Kolski Horwitz
  15. A Poem for my city  Lehlohonolo Shale
  16. Gentle Awakening  Kay Brown
  17. Mauve Month  Mike Alfred
  18. Joburg  Aphelele Portia
  19. Pain wakes me up at night  Musa Gift Masombuka
  20. The Settler’s Tale  Gail Dendy
  21. They Forgot you but Speak of you  Mphae Charmaine Mashifane
  22. Jozi, December: Season of Few Cars  Allan Kolski Horwitz
  23. Le re Romeleng Pula ya Borwa  Musa Gift Masombuka
  24. Goodbye Johannesburg, Hello . . . . . Mike Alfred
  25. The Pink Couch  Jane Fox
  26. Witwatersrand  Peter Anderson
  27. coming and going  Mike Alfred
  28. Jo-town  Frank Meintjies
  29. A Jozi Love Letter  Brandon Hamber

Jozi my Jozi
Dimitri Martinis

Jozi my Jozi
hallowed ground
hollowed out

soil inside out
yellow heaps

Golden harvest
progress’ dust
death’s confetti
over homes
into lungs

Oil on water
rainbow conflict
restless ancestors
riddled futures

Bose bja Gauta
Moses Seletiša

o ba latotše ge ba mmitša bo-malope ‘a phahlana
a ititia phega ka letswele
“gae ga se moo ke yago!”

bose bja gauta…

ditšhika di thoma go thala phatla
tete e a dutla
mahlo a hunyetše
maatla a fedile
e bodule ya lebila tsela
yeo a bego a e budulantšha
ka la gagwe la go palega lenga
le meroto e elela le dipotane
ke a ratwa e fedile
ba metše diphofa bo-gladys
‘ruri tate o swiswatša pelo’.

bose bja gauta…

gauta e thomile go galaka
ga e sa le bose go etša maloba
‘go phala ke ge motho a ka ikela gae’

Renos Nicos Spanoudes

your morning tweet
pandemic musings

i remember distinctly

months ago
standing on your rooftop

drink in one hand
joint in the other

camera neckstrapped
taking photographs

of the s(etting)un
of the roads
and the jozistence


the homeless man
on the corner
the nelson mandela s(uburb)anctuary
for children

he has refused
law isolation
to be moved
to a shelter
b(egging)een here
more than twenty years
well known he pleads
well loved well looked after

now da(y55)wns on me

triggered by memory


one man’s home is not another’s house
degrees of shelterlessness
of deathlife

in our co

In the Aftermath
Gail Dendy

17 June 1976. (On 16 June 1976 an uprising began in Soweto and spread countrywide, profoundly changing the socio-political landscape in South Africa. Events that triggered the uprising can be traced back to policies of the Apartheid government that resulted in the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953.)

Winter tonsured a crewcut on the grass
and yet we were surprised at how the public park
bloomed as though it had relocated

from another place and settled here
in a strange and foreign land, bearing crane flowers,
agapanthus, wild irises and rows of clivia
rooted in the deep, dark earth.

I think of ‘stone’, ‘gun’ and, oddly, ‘catapult’.
Or do I mean the soft furriness of caterpillar,
its pliable segments, the overabundance of legs?

In the distance, it seems the dogs have become
complacent, for they leave off
their sniffing and pawing, the way

wind chimes fall silent in the dead
of night. I had chimes like that, salvaged
from a dustbin, made of glass and wobbly tin,
which my mother hung on the stoep’s low beam.

And how she unlatched the window that night
to calm me down and show me the partial moon, perfect
in its incompleteness, and said

believe in this, for it will come back again.
I did not know then how caterpillars come back
as bright-winged creatures, but I believed
in angels, and that was sufficient for that particular time.

The City
Thomas Abram Selomane

See how clean you’re
Did you see how clear you were
At the first day of shutdown?
Now we’re in level three of lockdown
You’re still empty as clearest as a water pipe
I got out to look how shapeless you ain’t
Your curves are like flowers in a vase
Colorful and colorless butterflies and dragonflies
Over the river, closer the river and on air
Flying as high as they can view the whole of you
Jo’burg city, you look like a woman with earrings
Your streets, also those with red lines on the stomach
And yellow spots on the one side, are empty
As if hail has hastily passed with a wink of an eye
Leaves are playing in your parks
They have missed their friends
Whom are not able to go outside
As the fear the virus
No more shouting crowd in your stadiums
At least you’re having a deep rest
You can sleep smoothly
Without being disturbed by the noise of festivals
Johannesburg city,
The city of peace.

Allan Kolski Horwitz

     Freedom Park across from Eldos
                                                                Shoprite sign gives it status
                      Moonless night
                                                 Roads lit by burning veld
                                                                 Meet black flames of tire
                       And in this haze
                                                                 Blurred shapes
                                    Run about
        People stream from shattered shacks

Drag wood and rocks across the highway
                            To force open government’s hand
                                                          Force the indecent to be decent
                                             Yes            people come out
                                                         Dump boulders clench fists
                                                                         Across the tarmac
                                                            Make each turn of the driver’s wheel
                                             A jerk of brakes
                                                              To force blind eyes
                                                                              To see the need
                                                                   For land
                                                                                For work
                                                             So note the red lines
                                            Demanding power from power
                                                                  Shelter from a cold state
                                                        Production in a time of retrenchment
                                                                     As on this moonless night
                                   Shadows rouse the flames
                                                          All traffic backed up in Freedom Park
                                                                                       And people cry out
                                                                    To a beloved unloving country
                                                          Izwe lethu                  we need homes

Joburg Suite
Four poems by Afzal Moolla

The Johannesburg Rains
the rains settle,
meandering over jagged faultlines of our memory.

the rains settle,
streaming through veins,

the thud-thudding of the heartbeat of Africa.

the Jozi rains that settle,
within each of us,

herald rebirth.

if you listen,

if you strain to hear,
while shedding the raucous noise of your inner turmoil.

If you listen,

the whispers of the ancestors,
speak to us all,

lending us warmth,
urging us to stand,
even though we may

even though we may fall.

Johannesburg Blues

Walking in this city of diamonds,
gold deep beneath my feet,

sleeping under her rainy skies,
embracing my newspaper sheet.

I had a life long ago, a woman too,
now I’m just a huddle of rags,

while the women walk past
never reaching into their Gucci bags.

She left me, or I left myself,
on these bleak Jo’burg roads,

searching for that fix at these desolate crossroads.

Now I stand alone,
these empty streets my bed,

my blood soaking the earth
with drops of beaten red.

So I wish you well, friends,
I wish you gold dust amidst the fray,

all of you who walk on and away,

leaving me to beg or borrow,
to get through another Jo’burg day.

Jo’burg Moonlight

cloaked, shrouded,
misted within silver clouds,

moonlight slips, slides,

drizzling down,

like her soft hair that swirls, twirls,
caressing my face,

like moonlight,
on an overcast Jo’burg night.

Old Sof’town*


In old Sof’town,
the jazz struck chords,

the jazz lived, it exploded,
out of the cramped homes,
rolling along the streets,
of old Kofifi,

in tune to countless blazing heartbeats.

In old Sof’town,
Bra’ Hugh breathed music, Sis’ Dolly too,
and Bra’ Wally penned poems that still ring true.

In old Sof’town,
Father Trevor preached
equality and justice,
for all, black and white and brown,

and all shades, every hue,
even as oppression battered the people,
black & blue.

In old Sof’town,
the fires of resistance raged,

‘we will not move’ was the refrain,

even as the fascists tore down Sof’town,
with volleys of leaden rain.

In old Sof’town,
the people were herded,
like cattle,
sent to Meadowlands,
far away and cold and bleak,
as the seeds of resistance,
sprouted and flourished,
for the coming battle.

In old Sof’town,
the bulldozers razed homes,
splitting the flesh of a community apart,
only to raise a monument of shame,
and ‘Triomf’ was its ghastly name.


In Jozi today,
we remember those days,
and those nights of pain,
that stung our souls.
like bleak winter rain.

Yes, we remember old Sof’town,
as we struggle onward,
to reclaim our deepest heritage,
and build anew,
a country of all hues and shades,
of black and of white and of brown.

And yes, we will always remember,

and yes, we will never forget,

the price that was paid,
by the valiant sons and daughters,
of old Sof’town,

those vibrant African shades and hues,

of black,
of white,
of brown.

* Sophiatown was also called ‘Sof’town’ and ‘Kofifi’

The Colour of Freedom
Lorraine Burne

Shawl of lilac open skies blue and white
our city collared
bannered in whittling fraud
the colour of Freedom dismantling our plenitude
her transformation despite Truth & Reconciliation
within this largest ancestor grown home of forgiveness
living forest of healing entangling our composite collective roots
glorious mantle above our heads claiming binding the soil beneath
AS ABOVE SO BELOW where we have not learned
diamond mind Egoli’s nuggets
Mandela rainbowed us
offered all a glimpsed reflection red green blue black & gold
inclusive prosperity yet never to be repaid nor proven
a circle of opportunities stolen by the Crown
his lessons taught wrought by masters of deception
in statesmanship their puppets strung and fed
AS BEFORE SO AFTER where we have not learned
now again our purple bells fallen dreams of union sharing
pile the softest carpet newly trodden underfoot
wind stripped lawless leaders bare their rampant greed
on streets of jacaranda bleeding violet blue without account
drawing foreigners with cameras our new insatiable colonists
who pay their way in hidden trysts accepted
beneath our orbing sun to spawn their hoard here
AS THEN SO NOW When will we learn?

Why [do I love Joburg]?
Mike Alfred

Because, because,
[as Mallory said] it’s there.

it’s there.

No, not there, here, here it is, and I’m here
drowned in the hereness and the isness;
enveloped, trapped, pulsating,

No elsewhereness for me.

It’s where I am, where I belong,
where I soak in amness; where I breathe
and chew and sweat and shiver and curse
and love and hate.

Joburg my crimeness, my fenceness,
my litterness, my taxness, my raceness,
my jokeness; my clapness and flashness.

Where the sun enters and leaves my eyes,
where the wind lifts the moon and silvers the
winter air.

Joburg my sac, my dustfull lungsfull,
my gunshots, my gauzy stars, my perfume,
my stink, my myths, my restless limbs,
my flapping fingers, my dogdirt,
my indignation’s indigestion, my throngs,
my body’s mysteries, my trepidation,
my place, my departure, my return.

Joburg, my life’s garment, my coursing blood,
my voice, my laughter, my mates, my love, my loves,
my eardrum, my lunchtime beer, my siren,
my whip, my elation, my births, my funerals,
my anti-depressant.

Oh why do I love you, road rage city,
my doll’s house? Why? Because, because,
why Mallory?
Because I do,
I do,
I do.

South Africa
Mbali Tshabalala

When the bowl sky
rim stains with turmeric,
some fish chase the shore.

All That Glitters
David Jeppe

From the sputter of muskets perturbing the veld
To the chatter of stampmills was but a moment.
The cradle of humans as the crucible of wealth,
Separated only by some several millennia.
An epoch of glory and greed, not a flash in the pan.
The steady returns from the thinly spiced banket
Laid a bedrock of bounty.
Even that did not last.

Now the tailings of that time, those mountains of memory
To the great spreading seam, are also picked clean.
We survive now on stories, the ghosts of past glories,
The chattering mills become the chattering masses.
Nomads from Africa wander unseeing the temples to that time,
Burning fires in its monuments against the Highveld chills.
Past spreading city limits and zama zama wars in spent rock,
The patient veld waits its turn.

We Can Touch the Sky
Kerry May

Not lulled asleep by the restless surf
Not hidden beneath the shadow of a mountain
No, not ours.
Ours is a city in the sky
A city of storms
A city of gold
A city of trees
A city of light
What unimagined force is buried in our soil?
Pulling us along through the seasons of the world
The long dry winter bares the new bud.
Storm thunders across our sky.

This is no place to sleep
To be dreamy human being.
No! Stamp the ground and send the shout echoing up
Our heads are in the sky and our hands free
We will work the with Father God’s earth
Striving to answer His
Call “Oh man awake”
Joy in the thrill of the trumpets call
We are awake
And we can touch the sky

No, I am not Looking for my Father
Mphae Charmaine Mashifane

I cringe as I ride my way into
the belly of a city that swallowed my father
The knots in my abdomen grow tight
as I feel the shadow of a tower rest on my shoulder
No, I’m not looking for my father
but I hope to see him

People chatter, taxis hoot
I bet you my father must’ve
not heard himself think
of coming home

Street lamps, traffic lights
I bet you my father must’ve
lost his sight and his
way home

I’ve been trying to pick up a language
It feels like lapping water with my tongue
I bet you my father must’ve
forgot his own name and never heard us call out

No, I am not looking for my father
but I hope to see him

On the Way
Allan Kolski Horwitz

At the intersection of acorn lane and louis botha
I gave two rand to a stained woman with a hole for a mouth
At the intersection of walker road and bertha
I gave one rand seventy to a smirking man with a crippled swagger
At the intersection of albertina sisulu street and main
I gave fifty cents to a burnt out child with a burning hand
At the intersection of joe slovo drive and abel
I gave one rand twenty to an old woman who carried a bundle of snot
on her blanketed back
At the intersection of jan smuts avenue and empire
I gave five rand to a vacant glue sniffer who pawed the heavens
and drooled on my window


How could I reach


A Poem for my City
Lehlohonolo Shale

High-rise scrapers law us into my city
We move Zombie- like
In the cold-cramped city, where?
The light blurs gloom in the rubble drains
City lights can be alluring sometimes
Especially at night
But a poem (for my city) won’t take the blues away

It can’t swipe away the alluring might
When the city lights highlight, the city contours hide
The four-wheels wide
Milling at the red light
Collisions happen under translucent skies

Gentle Awakening
Kay Brown

a myriad birds
the crisp air
of the urban forest
 air-filled tyres
in cushioned contact
 with the tar
 small hard wheels
 of a trolley
hurtling downhill
 in search of scrap
 kettle beside me
 warming water
in its sleek embrace
 sharp claws on wood
 dog needing release
… the sound that prises me from bed

Mauve Month
Mike Alfred

Jozi turned mauve this month;
convoys of lilac caravels sailing
over the hills, amethyst carpets
popping along the avenues, a
lavender illumination flaring in
our great forest. Some Quixotes
condemn this splendid flowering:
an alien species without resident
status, but what’s a few Brazilians
among the nations? I can’t believe
this cool mauve is contributing to
Global Warming or anything other
than beauty and joy. Come spring,
can anyone contemplate Jozi without
her pale purple jacaranda birthmark?

Aphelele Portia

1888, I came to life
Love I experienced, only an illusion
I bared myself to your daggers and shovels
The world I welcomed, I embraced

My guts I spilt
My gold I let run
Introduced myself to you George Harrison
Trusted you with the treasure I am

You sounded the alarm notified the man of my existence
Denied the people my wealth
Drained me of my truth
Allowed the men to merge their names, to own,
Name, tear me into countless Metros:
Tshwane, Jozi, Ekurhuleni, Vaal, Soweto

All along my children go unheard, unseen, unloved
Tembisa, Diepkloof, Sophiatown, Fiestas, Alex
The children I was intended for

The children who built the railroads
The children who planned the Carlton Centre
Who planned the City Centre

The children who introduced me to the world’s stages
With their voices – Caiphus Semenya
Their guitar – Kippie Moeketsi
Their 5 Mahotela queens
Their leadership – Zanele Mbeki

Pain Wakes me up at Night
Musa Gift Masombuka

Pain wakes me up at night,
it gets lonely and need some company.
And as I try to dive and drown in alcohol,
it seem to have adapted and learned how to swim.

Jo’burg! With its cement trees, [1]
as lifeless it could be
exhales nothing but dust
that gets trapped in my lungs

I am asthmatic of these obstacles
that come whirling like a cyclone
provoking my senses, triggering depression
of insomniac nightmares, and silent screams.

Believe me, they are loud!
My own thoughts in a battle
for I fell deep into the lion’s den
and I fear for the cubs
what would be of me when the lions come?

Joburg, it is you I loathe
I found no gold or world class city
but a pit of wrecked souls in entrapment
and I fell into it, I fell into You!

It is my life you wrecked,
my dreams you stole
and my hope you shattered!
So I crawled and crept my way out
with scavengers preying for my soul.


[1] City Johannesburg. Mongane Wally Serote

The Settler’s Tale
Gail Dendy

Winter ripens the ornamental chili-peppers
and spreads them as bright-headed quotation marks
on stems so thin as to be almost invisible.

Although it’s hot, everything’s stopped growing.
Somehow the season knows when it is

better than we do. The verandah lies slack and still
in its veil of dust, and we park the cheap plastic chairs
and the wire-mesh table on their sides

in case an early rain surprises all of us
and leaves the furniture ruffled by dirt,

mosquito-tracked and trailed by brown lizards
scavenging for moths. The swordferns have shrivelled
into lacy disarrangements, failed signposts

of another year of getting too little accomplished,
the son-in-law with no business sense, although

the broad staircase of your mother’s mansion
and her Louis Quatorze settee fail the acid test
of questions and answers when you recall

your grandfather’s success from gold-panner to billionaire.
You say he plucked them straight off the earth,
rocks speckled and round as bird’s eggs. An eye, he had,

for the glitter. Nothing slack about him,
the stiffened collars, black bootlace ties, the man

who imported impossible orchids and those sack-wrapped
rose-stumps for the English garden he’d build here
to create the eighth wonder of the world

in this shanty town without even a river
to boast of. And then that winter it all disappeared,

drifted like forgotten hayseed in a single weekend.
Of course there’s no record of this,
and though I know you’re not a liar, I’ve seen you stand

on steps that were never there, white-shouldered,
companionable, your cheeks round as summer pears

as you pass timelessly through tea-parties,
a rabbit’s hole, up through the mirror, arriving, complacent,
almost everywhere but here.

They Forgot you but Speak of you
Mphae Charmaine Mashifane

Some speak of your concrete streets
The buildings that stand tall on your back
They forget your mountains kiss the clouds every morning

Some speak of your concrete streets
The bridges that never dare to touch your rivers
They forget your rivers fill their guts

Some speak of your concrete streets
The gold they dug out of your belly with their bare hands
They forget your soil’s fertility

Some speak of your concrete streets
The lights bright enough to call night day
They forget stars breathe light to your skies too

Forgetting the land before the name
The land before the rain of feet

Jozi, December: Season of Few Cars
Allan Kolski Horwitz

Jozi, December: Season of Few Cars
Allan Kolski Horwitz
Green growth and rain pervade
though thunder bumps at night
after dense clouds puff the sky
and the fragrance of purpled flowers
rivals the coffee i drink
making stories
in a zone of quiet celebrating the Galilean
where neighbours delight in fire
chairs make circles
barbequing meat at twilight as the heat abates

i switch off the news
the hollow men who own bombers
retreat to secure estates with golf clubs
the only news isn’t news
is the old news i always knew
in my head and my heart:
black holes will whiten the universe
anonymous heroes and heroines wait to be composed
the grate begs to be cleared of ancient ash
the inner ear finds the right colour
the inner eye
the right note

it’s a green Jozi December of trees
the STORIES       in my HEAD       sway
                                             in a downtime breeze

Le re Romeleng Pula ya Borwa
Musa Gift Masombuka

Mother, your sons have risen to walk bare-feet
the burning coal streets of Johannesburg,
Suffocating from the thick air filled with smoke from their burning flesh;
In pursuit of an old back-bent woman’s words, leaning on walking stick,
sweat pouring, sunbaked, staggering to her mud house;
“Le re romeleng pula ya Borwa.”

Father, the sun has risen
Not only to roast your children
but to turn their broken dreams to ashes
that rise to form clouds weeping tears of sorrow
and thunder – the moans of their sobbing souls.

Now when the clouds gather, mother,
Village children dance to the screams and tears
of your sons while singing,
“Langa langa bhek’ eGoli, mvula mvula buya.”
Children have put buckets in the rain
collecting the dead dreams, the torment and agony of their brothers
to water their own dreams —
No wonder their minds are graveyards
for dreams that never claimed existence.

Father, your sons have fallen,
The city knows no rain
but a reign of pain.
“Le re romeleng pula ya Borwa.”

Goodbye Johannesburg, Hello . . . . .
Mike Alfred

I appear as a man
starting another story:

I’m accelerating along the M2 West
heading for the Vaal
I’m gently swaying and clacking over
the Fordsburg viaduct on the Trans Karroo
I’m on the R21 to OR Tambo
for my Cape Town flight

Egoli, we grew up together,
learned to love one another
about you
I waxed loquacious
I was your scribe
delivered multiple tellings

I was too young to be asked
so here I was, faced with my
unquestioning arrival
my life and my futures
settled by migration
school, university, work,
my life unfolding, lovers,
love’s failures
love’s acceptances
career successes and
other episodes that make a life:
children, death of parents
from twelve dwellings we explored
your neighbourhoods

[no more half-price pizza at the
Radium with Clive]

Goodbye Johannesburg
I’ve left my story with you
my story of you and of me
all my written words and
so many spoken

[no more Lasagne at Francos
with the Cohens]

my words about
golden winter days
and torrential white waters
after summer thunderstorms
my memories of tram rides
up and down the hills
driving through the great
exotic forest doubling
as an aviary
mansions and shacks
crazy driver pissing competitions
the growth and demise of apartheid
about the men who found
gold and the men who mined
gold and those who followed:
workers and traders, whores and wives
and the six generations of
citizens who built the great sprawling
city where once was grass and banket

[no more dining at the Carlton]

the industrial revolution that
took place underground
the crime capital
the arena where once white was so baas

[no more draught beer at die kneipe,
sitting in the setting sun with Alla

Goodbye Johannesburg,
Goodbye Soweto
you were my marvelous voyage
you were the destination
and the journey
the backdrop and the fabric of my life
and all that life holds
the great adventure playground
the full catastrophe
and you were wonderful.

[No more symphonies at the Linder
Or movies in the Mall]

but, dear Jozi,
I cannot cling any longer
you fashioned and scene-changed
my life, but now, it’s over,
I’m moving on, but I’ll carry your
legacy in my bones and tissues
on printed pages I’ll preserve yours;
together we acknowledged
histories and biographies
the world’s greatest goldrush,
the richest square mile in Africa
Illegal gold digging and Black Diamonds
creating a new future
the Stone Age and the Iron Age
preserving the past

[no more internationals at Ellis Park]

this huge extent of
my ordinary existence
where with every step
every revolution
I clocked up
my life’s generous odometer
but . . . . .
I’m almost clear of
the city now
moving, moving . . . . .
moving on

hello Cape Town my adaptive
challenge, where the surf never stops beating,
sea-surge calling me to the edge of my life
here in Muizenberg village, history taunts me again
this village, struggling not to be tawdry, sleazy
or greasy spoon
and not quite succeeding
seeking some former grace and glory
but the world has moved since Snake Pit days
it’s a Rainbow Nation place
clean streets and dirty shouts
and the destitute still call under-the-bridge, home
it’s full of despair and flesh, beautiful bodies
filling wet suits and hardly filling bikinis
art deco talks loudly here and Cinnabar’s an eyesore
surf boards and skate boards are the
preferred modes of travel
and motor bikes are all a throttle

[now I can attend another film at the Labia]

they say Capetonians are not friendly
I seem to have experienced gold
yet again.

The Pink Couch
Jane Fox

twang of racquets
yellow shuttlecock flying
Sirius leaping piggyinthemiddle
leaping and shouting
from the tattered pink couch
on my back stoep I watch them
trying to make him sit

trees secretly shake themselves
a small slow rain
amber russet tawny gold
falls through the still air

car races past driver
revving like a maniac
peace shot to pieces
every day same time
sets the hadedas going sets them
flapping and screaming for safety for
a moment all is riot and anarchy
I lift tea to mouth
tea to mouth
the frayed sleeve of my old anorak

passers-by on the road
a Mum a Dad a pushchair and
two small dogs on leads
in hackled fury Sirius and Harry bolt for the fence
the walkers go serenely on
their dogs
know how to behave

small breeze founders the shuttlecock
sun sinks lower behind the western ridge
I gather up mug and cushion
prepare to go inside
woodsmoke drifts up from the valley
they are lighting fires
down by the river
all day
they have been queueing for food parcels
it will be a cold night

Venus shines out silver in a pink sky

must go inside now

Peter Anderson

Ceremony of smuts and jacaranda, fanfare
of a traffic brazen in the leaded dust. Stand
before the storm’s iconostasis when it comes:
the god’s got up in gold that sweat has rusted.

Land is always rising, leavened of what? The light
bent in atmospheric clutter and resumed
as shone grass, successions of groundwater begun,
begun again. Winter ascended into heaven.

Beyond the noose of motorway, where kennels vie
with nurseries, occasional vultures tow the skies.
The ground is fallen in, with its unlucky apes
returned in lime. So housing projects multiply

and haven’t time, because the fucking rain, O
come on now
. The townships. Planes hurry up.

coming and going
Mark Alfred

meditation master asked
where do you come from

from the edge of the currents of space
from the scum of a foetid puddle
from the blink on the other side of a billion years
from a mussel eaten by a strandloper
from the hollow of a baobab
from the dying breath of my mother
from five hundred books and arguments
from the pink cloud of morning
from pigeon shit

next week he’ll ask
where are you going

to the chopshop furnace
where I’ll become my
separate smallest components
poured back in the soup
to add a new flavor

Frank Meintjies

One day it’s a gilded mine dump
the next, a sinkhole
Another day, it’s a broadcast tower
that stands saintly as Big Ben
The next it’s the mighty Ponte, leaning
like a wounded Megatron

Since the lockdown
when government flattened the curves of creativity
tardy bureaucrats have been
fattening their powers
to lengthen queues

I’ve seen things; am high
on sanitizer fumes

I clutch a faded orange peg; it means
I’ll get my turn
to snatch some toilet paper
from a U-save supermarket shelf

Eye-catching sunsets land
with a splash in potholes
Spectres rise with gleaming eyes
at dawn
into the new normal

The city with blinking eyes, so many blinking eyes
and a hollowed gut

A Jozi Love Letter
Brandon Hamber

This city welcomes

Streets watch and wait
New arrivals take the bait
Gilded perdition
Jostling for position
With the skollies
And the recalcitrant
Unemployment rate

This city shines

Off the bonnet of a Beemer
Money creates and stymies
For the sheltered
Rejecting and accepting
Glittering fearful hope
Always space for one more
On the tightrope

This city jives

Buildings boom and sway
Heavy with prospect
Affluence and gunshots
Twinkling and twisted
Affectionate tepid nights
Rhythmic jazz
Wistful in the neon-light

My city of gold

I love you, I do

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