Motho Ke Motho Ka Batho Babang (A Person Is a Person Because of Other People)


By holding my mirror out of the window I see
Clear to the end of the passage.
There's a person down there.
A prisoner polishing a doorhandle.
In the mirror I see him see
My face in the mirror,
I see the fingertips of his free hand
Bunch together, as if to make
An object the size of a badge
Which travels up to his forehead
The place of an imaginary cap.
                        (This means: A warder.)
Two fingers are extended in a vee
And wiggle like two antennae.
                        (He's being watched.)
A finger of his free hand makes a watch-hand's arc
On the wrist of his polishing arm without
Disrupting the slow-slow rhythm of his work.
                        (Later. Maybe, later we can speak.)
Hey! Wat maak jy daar?
                        –a voice from around the corner.
No. Just polishing baas.
He turns his back to me, now watch
His free hand, the talkative one,
Slips quietly behind
                        –Strength brother, it says,
In my mirror,
                        A black fist.


Jeremy Cronin, Triquarterly.