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Childhood in Johannesburg

When we were kids in Africa

we lived beside a golf course

where players in their linen whites

whacked tiny balls down tree-lined fairways

their aim on watered greens

while brown-skinned caddies dressed

in red and blue hauled bags

of gleaming clubs and putters

searching for lost balls in mounds

of rusting leaves and ochre grasses


Between the northbound and southbound

fairways ran a polluted brook we fondly

called the golf course river, its turgid stream

of odorous water fed by concrete tunnels

on either side, some with trickles of sewage

still oozing from their gaping mouths

into the winding river


And we, fingers pinching noses, dared each

other to venture into looming darkness,

into intestines which were high enough

to swallow a ten rear old whose head

barely reached the dimly felt mysterious ceiling


Sometimes we found abandoned golf balls

in the muck, some still white and mottled

others, their skins peeling or punctured, disclosing

an interior of densely packed rubber worms

which when laboriously unwound revealed an

internal sac of liquid latex which we would stomp

on with our shoes and watch them squirting ink

like some dying cuttlefish or octopus


On the way home we stopped at Oosthuizen’s

butchery and bought a shilling’s worth of

half dry biltong and from the Rex Café next door

a handful of happy balls which were candies that

when you sucked them changed color from black

to green to red to purple down to their final

tooth-crunching sweetness on the dusty road

beside the golf course river

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© Johnmichael Simon



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