The Thrill is Gone

B.B. King played to a packed auditorium at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk, Mass. on April 3, 1978.

The Thrill is Gone
The Thrill is Gone
BB King is no more
we get to hear late
on Al-Jazeera News


(I take out my Royal Jam
The Crusaders playing
with BB King and the
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
on LP record of course)

The Thrill is Gone
a favourite of old
of mine and a grey-headed
neighbour down the road

The Thrill is Gone
Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr
and imperialism’s head-honcho
are duly and dutifully quoted
(what an improbable trio)

The Thrill is Gone
electric blues guitarist
who influenced many
(even did the prison circuit)

(he taught himself the guitar
he too was influenced
by those before even
by an aunt who had
blues and jazz records)

The Thrill is Gone
son of tenant farmers
yonder Mississippi Delta
the home of the blues

The Thrill that is BB King
is gone though
the blues is all around

Friday night we get to hear of the passing of Yale University honorary Doctor of Music, one Riley King; co-chair (my 1981 album tells me) of the Foundation for the Advancement of Inmate Rehabilitation and Recreation (FAIRR). In 1971 – the year after he won a Grammy Award (his first) for The Thrill is Gone, his Live in Cook County Jail became his best-selling album, identifying him with the cause of prisoners’ rights. His 1996 autobiography is titled Blues All Around Me.
(Photo Credit: AP)

21 already (on South Africa’s Freedom Day)

21 already (on South Africa’s Freedom Day)
21 already
you are
getting there
rather quickly
(might it have been
far too soon)
was the enticement
of international sport
(rugby and cricket chiefly)
much too much to resist
21 already
were we readied
for the occasion
and the great beyond
What have you celebrated
have you always had cause
to celebrate and rejoice
(are you selective 
in your remembrances)
21 already
(this coming of age)
does it seem times
are tougher now
in our rebuilding phase
(will we be reconstructing
forever and a day)
There are folks hankering
for a return to apartheid
corporal punishment
the death penalty and
keeping women and children
(and the other) in their place
(and quite nearby dogs howl
as a neighbouring child 
gets a mother’s loud beating
and a shutting-up)
21 already
would you do it
all over again
(Photo Credit:

Love is all around


Love is all around

Love is all around
is my lyrical response
to a Vukani letter-writer
from out yonder KTC

Where is love
in the townships
is the question asked
(amidst partying and drinking
round our social grant days)

Love is all around
I declare as I ramble
in and about Site C Khayelitsha

A bustling Saturday morning
down Govan Mbeki Road
to the Whizz ICT Centre
for their Youth Centre Launch
and an end-user computer Graduation

(them a small light of hope
all about community sustainability
in a place overshadowed)

Love is all around (too)
at the Moses Mabhida Library
where I’ve been before
for a Reading Competition
(fall in love with learning
says a mural on their wall)

Love is all around
5 happy earthly hours I spend
(language notwithstanding)
as the Youth Centre is launched
and students joyously graduate

Love is all around

What stops you
from making it so too


“Where is love in the townships?” (Letters, Vukani community paper, October 30 2014)


(Photo Credit: Whizz ICT Centre)

One can ask the question

June Orsmond and students asking the question

One can ask the question

One can ask the question
empowering young minds
as a 77-year-old is doing
at Lavender Hill High School
(outside of our ritual Days)

One can ask the question
why the white woman label
20-odd years in to a democracy
the media reports as such
(are they still group-thinking)

All the white I know
is the hoary-old ditty
A whiter shade of pale
a little-known collective noun
a whiteness of swans
(and the Beatles’ White Album)

I ask the question
from a non-racial rearing
enfolded by humanists
political educators teachers
civic-minded campaigners
(African) Marxists and Socialists
feminists and womynists too

(with Achebe and Ngugi
and Neruda and Brecht
they made their mark though
not with corporal punishment)

One can ask the question
with all the progressive battles
(no normal sport in an abnormal)
where has all the non-racialism gone
was it just a passing charade

One can ask the question
what seeds do we plant
as June Orsmond is doing
(the power of one person)
in Lavender Hill and elsewhere
in the ghetto of young minds

Marina da Gama grandmother June Orsmond’s work, in “The power of one” (Argus, July 2 2014), brings forth the question.

(Photo Credit: Cape Argus)

(Not) While the city sleeps

(Not) While the city sleeps

(Not) While the city sleeps
there is a child rape
crisis in the city
(a World Design Capital city)

(children should be
seen and not heard)

(Not) While the city sleeps
a terrifying epidemic
of sexual assault
(4 a day reported)

Never mind the police
Never mind our constitution
and flowery speeches about it
(Women’s Month quite far away
16 Days of Activism a memory-distant)

(Not) While the city sleeps
we attack our children
(and our women too)
with impunity

Malnutrition and hunger
crosses security fences
(that protect us from ourselves)
to be right on your doorstep

Is it the poor
Is it the hungry
Is it the jobless
matriculants and even
the homeless

Is it you
behind closed doors
in gated mansions
in ivory towers
be-suited in committee

How does the city sleep
(the city that works)
in the cold light of day

How do you sleep


“Child rape crisis in city” (Argus, 31 January 2014)

You (children) know too much

You (children) know too much

You children know too much
observes a grizzly-haired fellow
(his face on quite straight)
to the little ones with him
out in the village’s shop

(soon as you’re born
they make you feel small)

We heard that during apartheid
edicts issued from the mouths
of the guardians of our moralities
(girls wear pink boys)

(chop off their heads
chop off their thoughts
chop off their points
of view)

After all children
should be just
seen and not heard
never mind heeded

(are there young ones
at the Davos talk-shop
or any alternative)

You children know too much
no doubt you need to be
protected from us
who are far behind (still)

(speak when spoken at
we virtuously holler at them
second-hand smoke at our fingertips)

You children know too much
thinking sharp thoughts
getting all erudite
ready to vote one day

(or even to be elected
to rule from a yonder fortress)

You children know

Never a dull moment, Saturday morn, January 25 2014, out in the estate of Belthorn.

(Photo Credit: EventyEirin)

It was amazing

It was amazing

It was amazing
sex workers disclose
while folks still can
(we have a right to know
those Mandela-moments)

It was amazing
good money made
outside of the launch
of the ANC’s manifesto

It was amazing
more clients came
election plans made
the country anticipates
(will it be work for all)

Participants’ hotels
lodges and their cars
the scene of much activity
(service delivery at work)

(was the handbook
suitably amended
allowing members
to go forth and engage
with the electorate)

It was amazing
the demand very high
big fish landed
colleagues wishing for more
(ANC rallies out yonder)

After the main event
local industry supported
was it business as usual
or was it the usual business

(though food and fruit vendors
had different responses
to the brisk street trading)

It was amazing
politicians at work
introducing our born-frees
and other impressionables
to the ways of the world

It was amazing

Sex workers in Mpumalanga’s capital city get to meet the ruling party’s politics (“Launch is a shot in arm for sex trade”, Cape Times, January 14 2014).


(Photo Credit: The Randburg Sun)

Mix it

Mix it

Mix it
your metaphors
images and symbols
professors of doom
demoralizing our people

(whosoever our people
might be this time round
matric results under scrutiny
on the horizon)

Mix it
like anti-majoritarian
liberal critics
(a dangerous elitism)

(making hay
on a scrabble board
with big words)

So says the guardians
of our selves
keepers of the keys
to the democratic project

(the democratic project
led astray by mixing it
some folks might say)

Mix it
twitter and tweet
even twerk your way
to the dustbins of history

Pass one pass all
(suffer our born-frees)
recite from your songbook
peddle your election-wares
in Mandela’s name

Mix your metaphors
and I’ll blend mine

Our red-blooded spokespersons counsel…. “all our people not to be demoralised by professors of doom and anti-majoritarian critics” (“Serious challenges face education system despite matric pass rate rising”, Cape Times, January 8 2014); and “Dangerous elitism a worry, and no dustbins should await failed Grade 12s” (Cape Times, January 10 2014).

(Photo Credit: eNCA / Bafana Nzimande)

Wish you were here

Wish you were here

Wish you were here
voices a local headline
not used to solemnity
of the non-rude kind
in getting folks to read

Wish you were here
everyone wants a piece
the sweaty ones so-called
the selfie-I-me-mine crowd
not to mention those
of the empty promises variety

Wish you were here
Madiba-jiving away
piloting the path
of the straight and narrow
(now in whose hands is it)

It now is in our hands
wandering they are
often in the state’s coffers
or in someone else’s

Wish you were here
many lost souls flapping
in their rainbow fishbowls
on their way backward
to past habits and customs

Wish you were here
the weightiness lifted
if only for an Ubuntu-while
then it is the same old ground

The same old ground
women know your place
speak when you’re spoken
children should just be seen

Wish you were here
to remind those who need
to be reminded lest
we forget why we wish
you were here

A tabloid headline reporting on the Cape Town Stadium music tribute brings forth Pink Floyd’s sombre ditty “Wish you were here”, itself marking the life of an artiste-past.


(Photo Credit: PRI / Reuters)

It’s that time (of the year again)


It’s that time (of the year again)

It’s that time
of the year

The ritual of
16 Days of Activism
for No Violence
against Women and Children

(It is here
can you feel it)

(It is here
in the troubled area
that is the mind
and its beliefs
wherever it finds itself)

The ritual of 16 Days
is here with its white ribbons
official fanfare and road shows
smart slogans adorn banners
and good men marching

(a sudden media hype
tweeters and twerkers
personalities surface
all out to pledge themselves
with quasi-religious fervour)

How long
is the road
we will travel
these 16 days
and beyond

How long
still is the road
we have to travel
the 16 days

How many more
more 16 days

The Cape Times Editorial tells us that “16 days” is with us again; we hear of “16 days of activism to target 16 troubled areas”, and the SA Faith and Family Institute’s Elisabeth Petersen’s writes “Act against abuse” (Cape Times, 25 November 2013).


(Image Credit: The Daily Vox)