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For Sizwe Vilakazi


An hour’s drive or so from Johannesburg

and Pretoria are limestone caves,

a depository of fossils,

a chance ossuary of hominids,

the so-called Cradle of Humankind, owned

by Witwatersrand University.


Our guide, the first time we visited, was Arnold,

a young man in his twenties, who had lived

all his life near the caves, and whose ambition,

since boyhood, had been to be a guide.

He showed us a pool and its blind reptiles –



My first time in Manhattan I was amazed,

walking down Madison from the Park.

Yellow cabs and subway trains from A to Z

I knew – but there were buses, a plenitude,

most seemingly destined not for The Bronx

or The Bowery but White Plains.

My ignorance pictured some far distant place,

almost Arthurian, in the Mid-West,

from where travellers might never return.


This was the city of Sipowicz,

Homicide Detective and Everyman;

of lives wasted in the garish,



The Carthaginians had a name for it,

and the Romans, the Greeks – the Arabs too,

Bint al-Riyah, Daughter of the Winds.

This mountainous, volcanic island,

with its stone tombs and obsidian tools,

lies between Sicily and Tunisia,

fifty miles from Agrigento, forty

from Sharik Peninsula – which was called

the Cape of Mercury when the sea

was Mare Internum, Mare Nostrum.


Smaller than Manhattan, with fewer people

than Peebles,



My first term at Liverpool. Tuesday morning.

The professor of Philosophy’s lecture:

“All metaphysical statements are false,

or platitudinous”. My memory

of that October is of soft sun,

and clement shadows in the breezy

pollution of the river city.




Today, I have realised, that morning,

not quite four hundred miles due south east,

near the Pont Saint-Michel, under orders

from their chief, Maurice Papon, a Vichy

collaborator, police were beating

Algerians demonstrating against




David kindly asked me to contribute to ‘Other People’s Flowers‘.  I’ve enjoyed his poetry for more than half a decade now, having linked up on LinkedIn. His encouragement while I was writing one of my more complex books, Community, was invaluable. Community is a political memoir, tinged with urban scenes and community activism. For David, though, I included several excursions into the art world, including a brief description of a book signing and reading at New York University’s student center in 1986. In it, Germaine Bree and actress Irene Worth read portions of Marguerite Duras’ work.



‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive’,

observed Holmes to the astounded Watson,

having noted that the doctor’s face spoke

‘of hardship and sickness’. He had seen action

in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, which,

like the First was all about The Great Game

and Russia, and both, like the Third, all

about the British Raj, that Jewel in the Crown,

and Afghan monarchs that might be cajoled

with sufficient treasure or sufficient blood,

while the true rulers, the tribal elders

of the ethnic groups,