Before I even heard of rap . . .

. . . here’s a poem I wrote when I lived in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa, back in 1965.

Hillbrow (or flat on your back)

I walked alone down Kotze Street

I had no shoes on my feet

I badly needed something to eat

So I thought I would treat

Myself to the not very appetising meat

That they serve in the delicatessens not catering exactly to the elite

It was not long before I happened to meet

That crazy Greek from good old Crete

He used to indulge in counterfeit

Hillbrow taught him a lesson, but he still beat

Every gambler, however they may cheat

Nevertheless one must be discreet

For in Hillbrow don’t try to compete

With The Duke or Big Boy Pete

It’s always crowded, whatever the weather – it can sleet

It can be intense heat

The good-time girls will still greet

You. Newspaper boys will bleat

Their message. Look out for the pickpockets. They may deplete

Your next meal’s money, and I repeat

Make a hasty retreat

From fights, or you’ll find yourself uncomfortably involved with the non-consoling concrete.

Peace in Hillbrow has become obsolete

You’ll have to become an athlete

To keep up with the pace or it will defeat

Your object to keep your seat

In this mad society of ours.

What I looked like back then. The only photo I have from that year. Taken in a photo booth - as you can see.

What I looked like back then. The only photo I have from that year. Taken in a photo booth – as you can see.

A Song of Africa

(I wrote this for His Excellency, President Lucas Mangope on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Pilanesberg National Park – 8th December 1989 –

a poem in conclusion)


A Song of Africa

I give you a song of Africa,

a lullaby in reverse to our Mother

out of whom we have lived in both

harmony and strife with all her children,

from the sable to the wandering visitor,

from the rufousnaped lark to the child of man.

She has hosted us graciously in her

strong and forgiving pastures,

nurturing us all in her knowing ways.

In our pitch for survival

She has set the balance.

If we are to be true to Africa

we must be aware of her vagaries

and recognise the needs of all her children

to maintain her balance.

Her children, as siblings they are, will challenge

and use one another as in a game. However,

in their inherent love for their Mother, the blood of the

siblings of Africa is thicker than the water of

the surrounding oceans and lands.

We must be true to each other.

We must be true to ourselves.

We must be true to Africa.