talking, with ghosts

He sits on a wooden box

his large calloused hands work methodically

weaving hemp threads into belts and other things,

occasionally shifting woven greying black hair

behind a shoulder, as thinly armoured as the rest of him,

from The Doctor’s howls and tears.
Morning pedestrians jostle him into oblivion

there in front of the Chinese trinket shop at mowbray rank

potential customers, like angry cocks with heavy prices on their heads

clutch promises and dreams, stuffed photocopies of theories under an arm,

determined to grab a morning lecture, or empty-handed,

scurry for that last seat on the taxi, to clean someone’s yard

a floor or windows in a high rise, in the shadow of the flat mountain.
At night, a desperate race against the fading of light

for Khayalitsha, Mandalay or The Plein.

once warm sun, long hidden now and dimmed by cold clouds.

Our hearts grew tiny, back then

– he blurts out stones whenever he lights one up –

before, the only things bigger than our hearts

were our sleeves that we wore them on

– he laughs, as though he’d cracked the biggest joke –

maybe our collective fists were bigger.
a customer, checks him out, “This I is tripping” as she herself stumbles,

put off balance by  her own reaction.
he’s taking a long drag, the end of his cigarette glows wildly and sputters,

he spits bits of green leaf from between pursed lips ..

it all went to hell, we saw it, but our hearts were smaller,

that gigantic fist is no longer raised against the rain and wind.

they’d call us names for saying Dali’s white robes were fake Nigerian get-up.
I admit, I wondered then, how long was the line of guests

all of them opulent and brilliant

who understood what that fat cat was about, lounging on soft puffed-up white

cushions on too-expensive sofas,

and the rest of us,

nodding, in conciliatory agreement

jostling for our spots before our days fade

December 2017, Gapyeong

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