Jeff Spahr-Summers, US




Free Verse

Coffee Cans and Petrol

Returning home once again
Armpits burning
Thick with ticks from the veld,
I quickly find a coffee can
Fill it with petrol
and pick the swollen things slowly
So their head don’t break off
And stay buried under my skin.

Then I drop them in the petrol
Where they pop like popcorn
And sometimes
Like Tom Thumb crackers.



Lost Loves

Are never lost
Just beyond reach
They walk
And dance
And move us
Such a part of us
In part responsible
For making us
Who we are
Letting us
Love again



last night

say i had my way and
i had the green in my pocket
i would have left the highway
last night i would have
stopped at the diner
ordered a dreamy three egg
and cheese omelet ah
and a cup of sugar
some lipton orange pekoe
and hash-browns yeah
actually served by somebody
biscuits but no gravy
real butter melting
i would even have chanced
an onion or two
just to see you smile




The boy pretends he doesn’t notice
The hatred in your voice, the fear
Ripe in your eyes like choice fruit.
He pretends that his fate suits him.

He makes believe he’s been deceived
By your talk of friendship in the end.
He calls you ‘master’ and is relieved
That you don’t notice his disbelief.

He pretends that he likes you too,
But deep in his soul, he’s incognito
And anxious to creep away unnoticed,
To have nothing to do with you



i believe

in love at first sight
in the power of words
in the differences
in our sexes
in passion
in pain
in no
in yes
in hope
in perhaps
in whatever
is left



Some Say Black and White Things

Despite what you may have heard,
It’s simply a question
Of Black or White
No Gray reflections in between.

The fight is not swayed
By love of gold or diamonds,
Right or wrong, although
Some may tell you differently.

Some say
Whites scream nasty Black words,
Some say
Blacks dream white songs.

Some say
Some do.



South Western Township

I am the black iron pot
bringing hot scalding resentment
and pent up anger to a boil.

I lay sprawled and writhing,
scorched beyond reason
an open sore festering across the veld

I hold my swarming millions
like common flies by the throat
and crush them at will.

I have no conscience.
I starve my children and burn their schools.
I incite petty quarrel and riot.

I am swart gevaar
(brawling black peril)
the stool
flushed down the great white toilet,
the sewer of Africa.

I am murder.
I rape,
I am shameless.
I hate

I am Soweto.



Jester Rejected

There is nothing easy about it, at
least nothing to start them laughing,
And I am nervous at how they fidget
As I lean from foot to foot, or
how they cannot look me in the eyes
When they know damn well this is funny,
So I look at them, one and all
smiles as cold as mercury, silence.
and I have to believe they’re wrong.



justin at fifteen

he's almost as tall as me now he's as
thin as a rail with weeping willow hair
he's so much like me the poor boy is
so shy so hesitant so certain (that)
he'll always fall short somehow (that)
he's not quite as brilliant as i say he is



Frank Talk

In memory of Stephen Biko
(murdered while in police custody
in a South African prison in 1977)

Does it matter
that I was excited by the country,
that I was enticed
by the beauty, the danger,
the mountains, the valleys,
vineyards, beaches,
the vast array of insects, aloes,
leaches and peaches,
the leopards, the lions,
crocodiles, spiders and snakes,
the cries that hyenas make?

Does it matter
that I was astonished
by the way elephants’ ears flap
where they’re mad
and how they chase cars away,
how they flatten trees
just to scratch their backs,
the way anything will grow
if you just stick it in the ground,
the sound of a peacock’s anger,
the lemonade?

Does it matter
that I was a foreigner,
that I was eleven years old,
foretold and blindfolded
but not bold enough to understand why
I was suddenly ashamed to be white?

Does it matter
that I learned to listen
and to watch,
to stop and consider the cost
of respect lost along the way,
to silently go away
sometimes afraid,
sometimes prepared to forget?

Does it matter
that I was taught to play rugby
cricket, soccer, the guitar,
gymnastics and the fool
that I was schooled hard
in fantastic stories
and useless attitudes
of what is right for a white boy?

Does it matter
that I was perfect by nature
not a cadet
that I let human nature
lure me in and out of love
and hate,
that I learned to see the line between the two?

Does it matter
that I believe in freedom
and happiness
that I was sixteen years old
when told we must go,
that I grieved
and that by then
I didn’t want to leave?

Does it matter
that I found poetry
in the oceans surrounding me,
that I needed the pounding surf
to convince me of safety
in African nights,
to silence the unfairness of life?

It is important
that somehow I always knew
all along
the lies weren’t true,
that something was wrong,
that all was not well
in the land of sunshine and milk?






Read Addition a Global Correspondent Report on South Africa

 by Jeff Spahr-Summers

4: Lord of the Ridge and Fort Scorpion







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