Northern Cape, South Africa


Not the fist-sized bruised clouds

Above your heads from Scotland

When out running in Africa they lasted

Seemingly forever elongated above the red earth

Out from the township meerkats appear up

Like school principals checking their flock;

Out to work in the townships

Working in schools we stayed with families

Tswana, Afrikaans and Xhosa mixing

With our senses amid smoke, sun and love

In my house out on the fringes of town

Where apartheid and hate put them

My Oma-grandmother had lifetimes of pain

Etched in the lines of her face-times

Of making do and surviving the loss of the men

Colleagues saw likewise yet still more and more

Made part of a home part of a rhythm

Not so different and sometimes better;

At the end of our time

When he wept the fourteen year old I taught

What education destroys, cuts into was made new

Pointless paper work, managers who bully

Was stripped away.


Journeying to see the ancient carvings on rock

That made the Ring of Brodgar seem young

Death came close in

Our metal box

Hit and spun as the truck that struck us

Tumbled and broke the men on top

Rushing to help the dying men-

Men who had been strong, worked a full day

We did we could before help came.


Never learning their names who died then

We remember the living in that north

Adopting on leaving our friends briefly

‘Go well, come back.’

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