No. 5, 17th Street
Johannesburg/Egoli/City of Gold
I take these waves of your words as oceans
and interpret from postmarks your world,
where "butterfly" means savanna pursued by fire
and driven earth ploughed deep,
where one tin can, up-ended, is a seat
for a patriarch to gather round him stray groups of men
who've scattered from the hills to towns
to someone else's pavement
and so to sit and wait around their days outside your house,
living there, on your pavement
around a small fire that is home, next to your lives,
never intruding or threatening to spill over your low brick wall
as if knowing your door's open anyway
and nothing left to steal.
Yet how you must steel yourself against these men
on their up-ended tin-can seats, in case;
this audience to white lives in white suburbs in white cities turning
black at the edges,
black in the middle back in the parks, in the heart, until all Africa
reclaims Johannesburg as citadel of the future.
And you, Libby, calmly living there behind door-framed glass, ringing
on other lines getting through to other places by connections as invisible as wireless
with a hot-line to the sky, the peace channel.
The wind blowing in the door betokens nothing of fear to you,
you hold nothing against the world except your soul.
And oddly, I think of you as escaped
though in that terror of nightmare called change,
in the changed sitting-room, in the changed suburb,
you and the changed man, in the changed world out there,
Though I have escaped across oceans,
it's your freedom I dream.
[Footnote: An unknown number of homeless people - possibly more than two million - are believed to occupy the sky-scrapers of Johannesburg formerly occupied by businesses].
For more examples of Anne Kellas' writing - poetry, reviews, launch speeches etc - please visit Anne Kellas.