(South Africa, 2011)


Pity the poor prisoners, some in solitary,
behind their high unclimbable walls
and the wire, electrified, and the razor-wire,
and the locks and the double-locks and the uniformed
men with guns who’ll appear from nowhere
if you touch that button.

Don’t pity the free people,
feet firm on their ground, their doors open
to the sun, to their song, and the kids
kicking a football on common land.
Don’t pity them, the millions, the free
who sometimes

visit the poor prisoners by appointment
to sweep their patios for them,
scrub their swimming-pools,
hose their gardens, clean their big houses,
accept a drink of watered juice in a plastic cup,
take some money, stroll home, unlike

the poor prisoners who dare not
walk beyond their own gate, must not
let African sun touch the skin, will not
breathe its air - for the air of the prisoners is conditioned
as their nature is conditioned to lock and double-lock.
Stir-crazy, they’ll never escape

their burgeoning fortifications, the song
of their sirens and car-alarms, the electrified
wires of their horizons and the high
razored walls of their fear
that nothing clambers over but the bright
no-brained bougainvillea

that binds the poor prisoners in
behind the high walls of their making and the wire
that would slice through skin of any shade
and cause blood of only the one bright shade
to run over the wall through the blossoms
and down into Africa’s red heart.