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Afternoon in the Township

Wind the string tight
against the curving wood
ring after perfect ring

climbing from the strong pin
to just below the burnished shoulders
taking me back to Soweto


Grasp me tightly, paying
attention to the proper curl of
the fingers, the grip on the string
the deft confident throwing
and the quick snap back


to a playground
in a dusty township
bare black footprints in the earth
spinning me round, whirling grains of dust
aside in a miniature pirouette of colors

Flicking stones into a sandy circle
others watch him from the corners
of their hungry eyes
watch him pocket me
walk to the station
twenty sinewy years later
board the train where the tsotsies
roam the swaying corridors
scanning for tell-tale bulges
my heart bulging and pounding
inside my coat


The gaudy newspaper
reported twenty years and
one uneventful day later
at the foot of a side column
on page three,
the previous days tally

of murders, muggings
thefts and rape
there’s nothing personal
about this brother
it’s all in an afternoon’s work
this time they got a colored top
to take home for the kids

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© Johnmichael Simon



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