Poems by Keorapetse "Willie" Kgotsitsile


Manboy of the ages

mirror of my stupidity

and wisdom. Yours too

if you know there is no such

thing as even a perfect god


We are all dispensable

like words or songs

like obsolete tools

like a mother’s afterbirth


Rending. Yes. We travel

we move closer. Or apart

Don’t we know that even

the sun can be brutal!


This then is the rhythm

and the blues of it

Home is where the music is.


From This way I salute you, selected poems, pub. Kwela /snailpress, 2004



If destroying all the maps known

would erase all the boundaries

from the face of this earth

I would say let us make a bonfire to reclaim and sing

the human person


Refugee is an ominous load

even for a child to carry

for some children

words like home

could not carry any possible meaning




refugee must carry dimensions of brutality and terror

past the most hideous nightmare

anyone could experience or imagine


Empty their young eyes

deprived of a vision of any future

they should have been entitled to

since they did not choose to be born

where and when they were

Empty their young bellies

extended and rounded by malnutrition

and growling like the well-fed dogs of some 

with pretensions to concerns about human rights



Can you see them now

stumble from nowhere

to no







Consider the premature daily death of their young dreams

what staggering memories frighten and abort

the hope that should have been

an indelible inscription in their young eyes


Perhaps I should just borrow the rememberer's voice again

while I can and say:

to have a home is not a favour 



An omelette cannot be unscrambled. Not even the one prepared in the crucible of 19th century sordid European design.

When Europe cut up this continent into little pockets of its imperialist want and greed it was not for aesthetic reasons, nor was it in the service of any African interest, intent or purpose.

When, then, did the brutality of imperialist appetite and aggression evolve into something of such ominous value to us that we torture, mutilate, butcher in ways hideous beyond the imagination, rape women, men, even children and infants for having woken up on what we now claim, with perverse possessiveness and territorial chauvinism, to be our side of the boundary that until only yesterday arrogantly defined where a piece of one European property ended and another began? In my language there is no word for citizen, which is an ingredient of that 19th century omelette. That word came to us as part of the package that contained the bible and the rifle. But moagi, resident, is there and it has nothing to do with any border or boundary you may or may not have crossed before waking up on the piece of earth where you currently live. 

Poem, I know you are reluctant to sing

when there is no joy in your heart,

but I have wondered all these years

why you did not or could not give

answer when Langston Hughes, who

wondered as he wandered, asked:

what happens to a dream deferred?


I wonder now

why we are somewhere we did not aim

to be. Like my sister

who could report from any

place where people live,

I fear the end of peace

and I wonder if

that is perhaps why

our memories of struggle

refuse to be erased,

our memories of struggle

refuse to die

we are not strangers

to the end of peace,

we have known women widowed

without any corpses of husbands

because the road to the mines,

like the road to any war,

is long and littered with casualties – even

those who still walk and talk


when Nathalie, whose young eyes know things, says:

there is nothing left after wars, only other wars

wake up whether you are witness or executioner –

the victim, whose humanity you can never erase,

knows with clarity more solid than granite

that no matter which side you are on,

any day or night, an injury to one

remains an injury to all


somewhere on this continent

the voice of the ancients warns

that those who shit on the road

will meet flies on their way back,

so perhaps you should shudder under the weight

of nightmares when you consider what

thoughts might enter the hearts of our neighbours,

what frightened or frightening memories might jump up

when they hear a South African accent


even the sun embarrassed, withdraws her warmth

from this atrocious defiance and unbridled denial

of the ties that should bind us here and always

and the night will not own any of this stench

of betrayal which has desecrated our national anthem,

so do not tell me of NEPAD or AU,

do not tell me of SADC

and please do not try to say shit about

ubuntu or any other neurosis of history


again I say, while I still have voice,

remember, always

remember that you are what you do,

past any saying of it


our memories of struggle

refuse to be erased

our memories of struggle

refuse to die.


My mothers, fathers of my father and me,

how shall I sing to celebrate life

when every space in my heart is surrounded by corpses?

Whose thousand thundering voices shall I borrow to shout

once more: Daar is kak in die land? *


“No Serenity Here” was published by flipped eye publishing,

under the Defeye series in 2009.

*There is shit in the land.


Keorapetse Kgositsile

Hugh Masekala