‘The essential characteristic of a nation is that all its individuals must have many things in common – and must have forgotten many things as well.’ What is a Nation? Ernest Renan
Near the restaurant’s toilets, there was a large
framed print of a photograph of the beach
full of day trippers from Cape Town by train
one Christmas/New Year break in the ’50s –
when it was Slegs Blankes/Whites Only.
The restaurant’s customers were still white,
the staff black – by Toyota taxis daily
from the townships. On the beach, that windy
September day, African Penguins –
erstwhile ‘Jackass’ – were braying at the surf.
A Southern Whale and its young rose close
inshore and blew… From the bedroom window
of our three star guest house we could see,
in the moonlight, a young black man lay down
to sleep on the grassy bank near the sea’s edge.
In the morning he had gone. A submarine
sailed from the naval base, sounding its horn.
We watched a mist roiling slowly towards us
and the dark kelp bobbing.