Before any objection is uttered
The lights off from behind the counter
And hollers last call;
That’s all boys.
Stumble into the main bar, straining
Into the smoky old night;
Looking for some stray while finishing
Saturday night’s last pint.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
And sleep well.
This most comfortable Kalk Bay hour.
Here, now, is a moment not shared by the
Few who would sooner stab you to death
Than humiliate you.
Safe? Me? Oh yes.
But the humiliation is as long-lasting
A knife in the back would put an end
To that humiliation.
What a pity, no knife.
Life carries him, you, I, some of us –
On in pain.
Through beer-bleary eyes I see a boat alongside the quay.
Through gossip-deafened ears I hear a night-dark voice.
Kom jy saam? I make no reply.
Are you coming with?
Sorry Hosein. In the half-light
I though you were white.
We roll out towards a patchwork black-grey sea.
From out of the soft-deep dark the lights can be seen
From Bailey’s Cottage to Glen Cairn and Simonstown.
Yet to the crews aboard Colleen, White Rose,
Ang-Jerry, Ivy Doreen, The Star of the Sea,
Tajmahal and KB Fourteen, all is dark.
These souls simply feel each other’s presence
through the sea below
That manages, somehow, to communicate a way of life.
Sammy, Baba, German, Langa and Shaka
are in unison with this day
As their souls, mostly unconscious,
rise with the sun.
The staccato flash of a rising fish turning in the depths;
Coiling round and up and up, to the stern face of his captor.
Shaka smiles with his blood-shot eyes –
The young snoek cracks into the stillness of the boat.
Oom Janie asks the skipper. Where is the Lucky Star?
Ag man, hulle slaap.
The whole world does.
At dawn, at sea
The very universe, it seems,
Is locked in sleep.
Edited October 24 2005
Originally published in 1974.