Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Emily Melting

Enlarge poem

me through the back window of the car
just looking at her
her rich soil & soap smell still on my shirt

finally

this is poor memory ~

i am alone in that car
a boy five
driving itself down that street
for the final time

no steadfast father behind the black wheel
no mother with hands sewn together in her lap like nothing they can do
no brother who points at things and says
i spy…
no crying babe-in-arms sister
no sun-ripened loquats on the trees to tempt me
with their yellow voices

&

no radio providing an exit song

no

just me watching her melt
under the sun
into soil
into the scratchy day vanishing

arm hovering in the air as if she thought of a solution…
hand over mouth

choking an objection?

me & her Emily
melting into the country that made us both
made us all

melt

that was 1971

Gérard Rudolf

Featured Poem:

Joburg Lullaby

Enlarge poem

the leaves on
the trees are
doing jazz hands
in the breeze

Leaves scattered on the patio – fish out of water.

the M1 drones
that way.
the swish of a grass
broom next door.
early morning drips
through the keyhole.
cat laps it up.

at dawn
o dead poets of jozi
i see you looking sad
and sallow in the isles of
all-night garage quickstops
trying in vain to buy small
copper coin words to
curse this unsentimental
town that buried you
and left you behind
walled city
vladislavic’s city
city of the dead
city of the living
city of the gun
against the head
your three concrete cathedrals
ponte
brixton
hillbrow scratching scratching
old tunes out of
a gramophone sky
poor kippie’s forgotten tunes
bank robber’s rock
the clarinet kwela
diagonal street blues
it’s there
listen
listen
listen
it will break
your heart

crow alights on
an electric fence
teeters rights itself
a pissed priest
inside
Mahlatini & the Mahotella Queens
drag the sun in
kicking and screaming
from outside
i look and look
see no poetry
in these potholed
streets today
all i find
is armed response

life is a journey
but hard to walk
no kids to feed
cat arrested for stole neighbor’s milk
need bail muny
jobless
homless
need to eat
i dont do rob or murder
will work for food
look at yourself
and look at me
i’m down in the (mine) dumps
up in the air
god bless
god bless
god bless

have a heart
jesus jozi
you throw
your night stars out
with the trash
traffic light messiahs
begging for scraps
severed hands
heavy crosses
eyes hollow
with the love
of no one
jesus jozi
have a heart

magic hour
cold hour
hum hour
jozi dawn hour
hadedah
stitches day
to night
tyre-smoke-air
crickets
dogs
flaked autumn
on pavements –
gold on streets
gold to east
fish out of water
skyscrapers shake
in their shoes
hollowed earth
these
the last days
of gravity

i smell you
jozi
fire in konkas
on street corners
in the inner city
to keep rough hands
hot
the burn of tyres seep
in from
braamfontein
berea
settle like old memories
of even darker times
on green lawns
plush carpets
in soft suburbs
where the slave jazz
of lawnmowers
leafblowers disturb
nothing but yawns
and poolside prattle
i smell you
jozi
under the fresh rot
of autumn
the electric buzz of fences
good neighbours
in the cathedral malls
sandton and rosebank
where the grey and
the good gather in
food courts to chew
the cud
avoid the headlines
for the day-after-freedom-day
i smell the flowers
in your potholes
jozi
i smell the dust
blowing off your dumps
wipe the crumbs
of night off the table
stars on black-slate
kitchen floor
freedom is a loaf of bread
under the arm
amen
and fuck you

Gerard_Rudolf

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Comments

  1. Hi, thank you for this.

    I so loved recording with you.

    Just one thing please: could you please credit the photographer: his name is Cornél van Heerden.

    It is very important.

    Thank you.

    Gérard Rudolf

    Gerard Rudolf

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

Gérard Rudolf was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in the year Verwoerd was assassinated.

He spent most of his childhood in Cape Town. When he was a boy, he was convinced the world had been monochrome before he was born—all the photographs in the family albums, the old movies on TV, all of it black and white. He spent hours trying to figure out how and when the world changed to colour. He roamed the neighborhood with friends creating strange worlds in empty lots—Cowboys and Indians, Star Wars, Huck Finn. School bored him. He mostly stared out the windows. His head was never where his body was. It still isn’t. His teenage years were spent in Johannesburg.

After school, he joined the military for 2 years because it was compulsory and because his family wasn’t rich enough to send him into exile in order to dodge the dictates of the Apartheid regime. At 18 he did a tour of duty in the Angolan War. After his discharge he resolved never to wear a uniform or take up arms again. (so far, so good) He studied acting, moved to Cape Town and became a successful actor. He loved the collaborative nature of acting, all the oddballs and geniuses, and that no two days were the same.

In 1998 he co-founded a professional acting school in Cape Town because he wanted to give something back to the industry that had saved him from the 9-5. By 2002 he was utterly burnt out. His life was burning down around his ears. He felt as if he were sitting in a deck chair with a cold beer watching everything go up in smoke. He quit acting, got divorced, and moved to the UK where he started writing full-time as a means to orient himself on the map. He moved back to Johannesburg in 2010.

He is not as dark and moody as people think. He blames this misconception on his face.

Gérard Rudolf

Gerard_Rudolf
Gerard_Rudolf

Biography

Gérard Rudolf was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in the year Verwoerd was assassinated.

He spent most of his childhood in Cape Town. When he was a boy, he was convinced the world had been monochrome before he was born—all the photographs in the family albums, the old movies on TV, all of it black and white. He spent hours trying to figure out how and when the world changed to colour. He roamed the neighborhood with friends creating strange worlds in empty lots—Cowboys and Indians, Star Wars, Huck Finn. School bored him. He mostly stared out the windows. His head was never where his body was. It still isn’t. His teenage years were spent in Johannesburg.

After school, he joined the military for 2 years because it was compulsory and because his family wasn’t rich enough to send him into exile in order to dodge the dictates of the Apartheid regime. At 18 he did a tour of duty in the Angolan War. After his discharge he resolved never to wear a uniform or take up arms again. (so far, so good) He studied acting, moved to Cape Town and became a successful actor. He loved the collaborative nature of acting, all the oddballs and geniuses, and that no two days were the same.

In 1998 he co-founded a professional acting school in Cape Town because he wanted to give something back to the industry that had saved him from the 9-5. By 2002 he was utterly burnt out. His life was burning down around his ears. He felt as if he were sitting in a deck chair with a cold beer watching everything go up in smoke. He quit acting, got divorced, and moved to the UK where he started writing full-time as a means to orient himself on the map. He moved back to Johannesburg in 2010.

He is not as dark and moody as people think. He blames this misconception on his face.

Emily Melting

Enlarge poem

me through the back window of the car
just looking at her
her rich soil & soap smell still on my shirt

finally

this is poor memory ~

i am alone in that car
a boy five
driving itself down that street
for the final time

no steadfast father behind the black wheel
no mother with hands sewn together in her lap like nothing they can do
no brother who points at things and says
i spy…
no crying babe-in-arms sister
no sun-ripened loquats on the trees to tempt me
with their yellow voices

&

no radio providing an exit song

no

just me watching her melt
under the sun
into soil
into the scratchy day vanishing

arm hovering in the air as if she thought of a solution…
hand over mouth

choking an objection?

me & her Emily
melting into the country that made us both
made us all

melt

that was 1971

Featured Poem:

Joburg Lullaby

Enlarge poem

the leaves on
the trees are
doing jazz hands
in the breeze

Leaves scattered on the patio – fish out of water.

the M1 drones
that way.
the swish of a grass
broom next door.
early morning drips
through the keyhole.
cat laps it up.

at dawn
o dead poets of jozi
i see you looking sad
and sallow in the isles of
all-night garage quickstops
trying in vain to buy small
copper coin words to
curse this unsentimental
town that buried you
and left you behind
walled city
vladislavic’s city
city of the dead
city of the living
city of the gun
against the head
your three concrete cathedrals
ponte
brixton
hillbrow scratching scratching
old tunes out of
a gramophone sky
poor kippie’s forgotten tunes
bank robber’s rock
the clarinet kwela
diagonal street blues
it’s there
listen
listen
listen
it will break
your heart

crow alights on
an electric fence
teeters rights itself
a pissed priest
inside
Mahlatini & the Mahotella Queens
drag the sun in
kicking and screaming
from outside
i look and look
see no poetry
in these potholed
streets today
all i find
is armed response

life is a journey
but hard to walk
no kids to feed
cat arrested for stole neighbor’s milk
need bail muny
jobless
homless
need to eat
i dont do rob or murder
will work for food
look at yourself
and look at me
i’m down in the (mine) dumps
up in the air
god bless
god bless
god bless

have a heart
jesus jozi
you throw
your night stars out
with the trash
traffic light messiahs
begging for scraps
severed hands
heavy crosses
eyes hollow
with the love
of no one
jesus jozi
have a heart

magic hour
cold hour
hum hour
jozi dawn hour
hadedah
stitches day
to night
tyre-smoke-air
crickets
dogs
flaked autumn
on pavements –
gold on streets
gold to east
fish out of water
skyscrapers shake
in their shoes
hollowed earth
these
the last days
of gravity

i smell you
jozi
fire in konkas
on street corners
in the inner city
to keep rough hands
hot
the burn of tyres seep
in from
braamfontein
berea
settle like old memories
of even darker times
on green lawns
plush carpets
in soft suburbs
where the slave jazz
of lawnmowers
leafblowers disturb
nothing but yawns
and poolside prattle
i smell you
jozi
under the fresh rot
of autumn
the electric buzz of fences
good neighbours
in the cathedral malls
sandton and rosebank
where the grey and
the good gather in
food courts to chew
the cud
avoid the headlines
for the day-after-freedom-day
i smell the flowers
in your potholes
jozi
i smell the dust
blowing off your dumps
wipe the crumbs
of night off the table
stars on black-slate
kitchen floor
freedom is a loaf of bread
under the arm
amen
and fuck you

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (1)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (2)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (3)
  • Peace (1)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (2)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Emily Melting

Enlarge poem

me through the back window of the car
just looking at her
her rich soil & soap smell still on my shirt

finally

this is poor memory ~

i am alone in that car
a boy five
driving itself down that street
for the final time

no steadfast father behind the black wheel
no mother with hands sewn together in her lap like nothing they can do
no brother who points at things and says
i spy…
no crying babe-in-arms sister
no sun-ripened loquats on the trees to tempt me
with their yellow voices

&

no radio providing an exit song

no

just me watching her melt
under the sun
into soil
into the scratchy day vanishing

arm hovering in the air as if she thought of a solution…
hand over mouth

choking an objection?

me & her Emily
melting into the country that made us both
made us all

melt

that was 1971

Comments

  1. Hi, thank you for this.

    I so loved recording with you.

    Just one thing please: could you please credit the photographer: his name is Cornél van Heerden.

    It is very important.

    Thank you.

    Gérard Rudolf

    Gerard Rudolf

Your email address will not be published.