[Do Not Go Alone] Down London Road


The car hire map red lined the London Road

Too dangerous, embarrassing

Traversing young Madiba's home

Bypass the people; oh, the people!

Find Sandton's Euro towers some other way

Go gawk Soweto safely with a guide

Live to tell of it another day.

And never pause for robots after dark

They’ll hijack, burgle, waste you for our car.

Do not turn down the London Road!


I'll take you to the ATM

She said so earnestly

You mustn't go alone among

The people; oh, the people!

Are unsafe, dangerous

You are not like them

We do not like them

The people are not to be trusted

Do not go along the London Road!


Joe left me in the office once

At home affairs, some fiddly paper business

Amid the chaos of the crowds

The noisy, noisome hall

And call me when it's over

Walking, waiting him, in the street

Admiring the market life, voices, 

Called to a corner of my memory

Youthful past, the old familiar

Sounds, smells, colours, chaos

Joe approached with screeching tires

Joe reproached with horrored words

You mustn't stand out here

among the people; oh, the people!

Unsafe, dangerous; you stand out.

Do not go alone the London Road!


Browse township art on neutral ground

Greenmarket, the common, Rosebank rooftop

Enough that you imagine calloused hands

Bending metal, threading beads, shaping stone, bending backs

Find some gumboot dancers, hang them on your wall

Avoid the doubtful air of their shabeen

Kabeli's work will evidence your care

Keep to your kind, You can't go everywhere

Among the people; oh, the people!

So different, dangerous, unsafe

Do not stroll town on London Road!


Some driver took an unfamiliar path

Smoke fires along the curbs, and

In old barrels, warmed them waiting

For the transport vans dispatching

To work in places kept apart, hied from home

And traders crowded close upon each other

Barters, deals, impromptu meals

Bounce down the dusty potholes, dripping standpipes

Doors swing, admitting gazes

Into some rude, leaning shacks, tidy lives

The driver speaks with dignity, and pride

He lives here, his daughter studies medicine

In the university nearby.

The road flies past a freeway into trees

Where are we?  In Sandton now

We've come through Alexandra,

Just travelled by the London Road.


Imagine the People; oh, the people! 

These disordered democrats

Makers of bricks without straw

Living, honest, shameless living.

Seeing, squeezing value from 

Life's detritus without judgement

Or pretense to victimhood, nobility

Forging homes, towns, organic, waste-less

Building free lives in the wasteland

Of this over governed state.

Imagine democracy, control

passed Into the hands of these poor, 

wrenched from the grasp of the 

Comrades, embarrassed by their lives.

Imagine a nation owning now, at last

All the truths traversing London Road.

 © Philip Knight 2018