Special Features

JOBURG/JOZI/EGOLI

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

CONTENTS

  1. Jozi my Jozi Dimitri Martinis
  2. Bose bja GautaMoses Seletiša
  3. HorizonRenos Nicos Spanoudes
  4. In the AftermathGail Dendy
  5. The CityThomas Abram Seloman
  6. Non-DeliveryAllan Kolski Horwitz
  7. Joburg SuiteAfzal Moolla
    a. The Johannesburg Rains
    b. Johannesburg Blues
    c. Jo’burg Moonlight
    d. Old Sof’town
  8. The Colour of FreedomLorraine Burne
  9. Why [do I love Joburg]?Mike Alfred
  10. South AfricaMbali Tshabalala
  11. All That GlittersDavid Jeppe
  12. We can Touch the SkyKerry May
  13. No, I am not Looking for my FatherMphae Charmaine Mashifane
  14. On the WayAllan Kolski Horwitz
  15. A Poem for my city Lehlohonolo Shale
  16. Gentle AwakeningKay Brown
  17. Mauve MonthMike Alfred
  18. JoburgAphelele Portia
  19. Pain wakes me up at nightMusa Gift Masombuka
  20. The Settler’s Tale Gail Dendy
  21. They Forgot you but Speak of youMphae Charmaine Mashifane
  22. Jozi, December: Season of Few CarsAllan Kolski Horwitz
  23. Le re Romeleng Pula ya BorwaMusa Gift Masombuka
  24. Goodbye Johannesburg, Hello . . . . . Mike Alfred
  25. The Pink CouchJane Fox
  26. WitwatersrandPeter Anderson
  27. coming and goingMike Alfred
  28. A Coat LifeDimakatso Sedite
Jozi my Jozi
Dimitri Martinis

Jozi my Jozi
hallowed ground
hollowed out

Red
soil inside out
cyanide
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’

Horizon
Renos Nicos Spanoudes

your morning tweet
pandemic musings
triggers

i remember distinctly

months ago
standing on your rooftop

drink in one hand
joint in the other

camera neckstrapped
you
taking photographs

of the s(etting)un
of the roads
and the jozistence
below
birds
above

beings

the homeless man
on the corner
outside
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

kill(arney)

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

un(charted)folding
in our co
ronaworld

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.

Non-Delivery
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
Soaking,
the rains settle,
meandering over jagged faultlines of our memory.

Drenching,
the rains settle,
streaming through veins,

the thud-thudding of the heartbeat of Africa.

Absorbing,
the Jozi rains that settle,
within each of us,

herald rebirth.

And,
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
stumble,

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,
cascades,

drizzling down,

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

like moonlight,
on an overcast Jo’burg night.

Old Sof’town*

1.

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.

2.

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,
somersaulting,
free.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Home?

How could I reach

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++HOME

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

trilling
a myriad birds
threading
the crisp air
of the urban forest
murmur
+++++ air-filled tyres
in cushioned contact
+++++ with the tar
growl
+++++ small hard wheels
+++++ of a trolley
hurtling downhill
+++++ in search of scrap
purr
+++++ kettle beside me
+++++ warming water
in its sleek embrace
scritch
+++++ 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?

Joburg
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

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
notice
the frayed sleeve of my old anorak
comforting

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
“MARAUDERSFOREIGNERSVANDALSRAPISTSTHIEVES”
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

Witwatersrand
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

A Coat Life
Dimakatso Sedite

I wake up to walls washed quiet and white with water paint,
my chest swelling up with a mood of a pre-dawn hour.

Rain is wax melting, spiralling down my apartment window.
Winter sits in a tizz, inside these soda bubbles,

much like mulch unfreezing. I hear an alto, a roar of something
that lives in the colour of Kippies’ music.

His bench has saxophone laid out in three streaks of wet clay,
to be woven, and played later.

Old Market Theatre has beads of raindrops on her brass door handle,
pot plants blotch her walls, like shrubs of Afro hair.

A man’s trench coat passes by, shrouded by a haze of haste, as if
he’s being moved by a light stroke of a painter’s brush.

Last night I almost fizzled, after jack-knifing myself into pieces of
purple light, the kind we see after a blast of rain,

just before it soothes itself in the clouds. I live on the hemline
of my coat, far from skin,

as life’s surprise strikes me like a walnut on my skull. I’m wrapped
in layers of hardness, the kind of

hard a tortoise endures under the bulk of its shell.