‘NO ONE IS SAFE’, a poem by Allan Kolski Horwitz

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents a new poem by Allan Kolski Horwitz.



      GANG    BULLET    CASH
                              that’s  the one t-shirt
                  Freedom  Dignity

            in the street
      young boys play soccer with a rolled up raincoat
                              duck    in and    out
                  as  cars  race by

                  older majitas slouch by the spaza shop
        three toothless women stuck to the stairs
                                        let them suck the baby’s milk

                              and there is music
                                                      relentless beat
      there is always music coming from the shebeen
                              in the garage on Phuza Mansions
                  where an old man shuffles by with empties

                                        he is afraid of the girls at the corner
      you know those three on the roof of Cinnamon Court
                              he buys them airtime if they’ll visit

                  across the road from the hair salon
                                        the ruin where the homeless
                              sleep on the ceiling
                                              lights up every night

                      the flicker of these fires
                                                                      fires phantoms:
                                        OVER THE WALLS

      the old man shuffles past the vandaliction
                                                    rat tails gash the bathroom rails

                                        inside the mayoral office the mayor
                                          repeats reports about urban decay
                                              the media broadcast his policy:
                                                  no surrender to the mafias

                              FOREIGNERS  are  responsible

                              the boys playing soccer do not see the official sedan
      the man behind the wheel      barely wakes from his ORGASM

the youngest boy’s in the gutter
                                                    neck broken on impact
                              the    bloody fender  bends back  into the sunset

        lucky the media were asleep in their hammocks
lucky there is no one to video the panties on the car seat
                              the mayor’s open bottle of heavenly spirits

      the oldest boy’s crying
                                        ball popped            game exploded
clouds shade the street
                              wind whips round the water tower
    the old man shares his words
                                                        -he is a guy who had dreams-

    no one is safe from the gang that comes over the walls
                        no one is safe
but the biggest crooks are the white collar brigade
    who sell you insurance          sell you electric wire and  boiling hot dogs

                              there’s no point trying
                                                                      to play it safe
                  by living        in a safe

there’s no point dying      trying to keep the PIN safe

there’s no point trying to outrun the inhuman race’

© Allan Kolski Horwitz, 2020; a previous version appeared in Botsotso 18: Poetry from Private and Public Places, 2018

  • Allan Kolski Horwitz lives in Johannesburg. He writes in several genres and is an educator and activist as well. He is a member of the Botsotso Publishing editorial board and co-ordinator of the Botsotso Ensemble’s performing arts programme. He has published four books of poetry – Call from the Free State (1979), Saving Water (2005), There are Two Birds at My Window (2012) and The Colours of Our Flag (2016); and written and directed several plays – The Pump Room, Comrade Babble, Boykie and Girlie, Jerico, Book Marks and Taking Everything into Account.

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

Header image: Hennie Stander on Unsplash

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