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Thursday, August 26, 2021 - 06:14

I appear as a man 
starting another story

I’m accelerating along the M2 West
heading for the Vaal
I’m gently swaying and clacking over 
the Fordsburg viaduct on the Trans Karroo
I’m on the R21 to OR Tambo 
for my Cape Town flight  

A migrant between the book ends of
my life; Johannesburg the library

Egoli, we grew up together, 
learned to love one another 
about you 
I waxed loquacious 
I was your scribe
delivered multiple tellings 

I was too young to be asked 
so here I was, faced with my 
unquestioning arrival  
my life and my futures
settled by migration
school, university, work, 
my life unfolding, lovers, 
love’s failures 
love’s acceptances
career successes and 
other episodes that make a life:
children, death of parents
from twelve dwellings we penetrated
your neighbourhods 

[no more half-price pizza at the 
Radium with Clive]

Goodbye Johannesburg
I’ve left my story with you
my story of you and of me
all my written words  and 
so many spoken 

[no more Lasagne at Francos 
with the Cohens]

my words about 
golden winter days
and torrential white waters
after summer thunderstorms
my memories of tram rides 
up and down the hills 
driving through the great 
exotic forest doubling 
as an aviary
mansions and shacks
crazy driver pissing competitions
the growth and demise of apartheid
about the men who found 
gold and the men who mined 
gold and the those who followed:
workers and traders, whores and wives 
and the six generations of
citizens who built the great sprawling
city where once was grass and banket

[no more dining at the Carlton]

the industrial revolution that 
took place underground
the crime capital
the arena where once white was so baas

[no more draught beer at die kneipe,
sitting in the setting sun with Allan]

Goodbye Johannesburg, 
Goodbye Soweto 
you were my marvelous voyage
you were the destination 
and the journey
the backdrop and the fabric of my life 
and all that life holds 
the great adventure playground
the full catastrophe
and you were wonderful. 

[No more symphonies at the Linder
Or movies in the Mall]

but, dear Jozi,
I cannot cling any longer
you fashioned and scene-changed 
my life, but now, it’s over, 
I’m moving on, but I’ll carry your
legacy in my bones and tissues
on printed pages I’ll preserve yours; 
together we acknowledged 
histories and biographies
you called me to explore
the world’s greatest goldrush, 
the richest square mile in Africa
Illegal gold digging and Black Diamonds
creating a new future
the Stone Age and the Iron Age
preserving the past

[no more Rugby at Ellis Park]

this huge extent of
my ordinary existence
where with every step 
every revolution
I clocked up 
my life’s generous odometer 
but . . . . . 
I’m almost clear of 
the city now
moving, moving . . . . .
moving on

hello Cape Town, my adaptive 
challenge, where the surf never stops beating, 
sea-surge calling me to the edge of my life
here in Muizenberg village, history taunts me again
this village, struggling not to be tawdry, sleazy
or greasy spoon
and not quite succeeding
seeking some former grace and glory 
but the world has moved since Snake Pit days
it’s a Rainbow Nation place
clean streets and dirty shouts
and the destitute call under-the-bridge, home
so barracks regular and neat
it’s full of despair and flesh, beautiful bodies 
filling wet suits and hardly filling bikinis
the uniform: shorts, t shirts, slip slops
dirty jeans and beards
art deco talks loudly here and Cinnabar’s an eyesore
surf boards and skate boards are the 
preferred modes of travel 
motor bikes are all athrottle

[I can attend films at the Labia with friends]

The Alfred family are now  
disturbed by wind and damp
and rapid cloudy change
they‘ll learn to negotiate the Cape 
currency of property 
not gold.

Mike arrived in Johannesburg as a toddler just before World War II. Johannesburg provided the stimulating backdrop for most of his life. He was well married to Cecily and is proud of a daughter, son and four grandsons. With the benefit of hindsight, he can claim to have pursued three careers which, luckily for him seemed to meld seamlessly one into the other. The first was as a human resource practitioner, the second as a writer of business books, biographical essays and Johannesburg history. He is a widely published poet, a writerly pastime which he still pursues energetically. The third career saw him guiding walk tours all over old Johannesburg. Mike has recently moved to Cape Town where in a fascinating new environment, pursuing a stimulating late-life adventure, he has been able to write occasionally for the Heritage Portal.


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