Robben Island

We visited South Africa some years ago.  It was a unique experience–so much natural beauty and what a breathtaking abundance of wildlife! But the trip to Robben Island added a sombre note.


Another place of the skull

Another Golgotha

Clean neat bleached to the bare

necessities of existence

belying the flagrant thrust

of arum lilies

blooming in random clusters.

Extravagant trumpets

large, full blown, secure in their whiteness

rooting themselves where they will

unlike the baby penguins

huddling in bushes

before our alien onslaught

The wind outlines the bleakness of the sun

as a silent prison

willingly unlocks doors

and secrets flutter free.

Dues paid

the toiler in freedom’s mill

is now permitted the luxury

of endlessly reliving hunger and pain

anger and hate.

While courteous hordes


wrestling with what and why

and who and which

and right and wrong

wondering how deep

they might insert their

delicate probes

beneath the armour of calluses

How deep burrow

before their dentist’s drill

encounters the unguarded nerve

In the end

one thinks

he has a tale to tell at least

and eloquently too.

If not would hasty bank notes pile

up on the dignified palm

eager to repay someone else’s debt?

To buy absolution for another’s crime?

In the end

what remains

but the naked skull of truth

even a free man needs to eat

and the heat of youthful rage

cannot flame far enough

to disperse the chill of age.

The wind is curiously dry

as we sidle away from the limestone quarry

thanking God for the good karma

that kept us secure in distant climes

for the screen of designer glasses

that saves our eyes

for the watered milk of human kindness

that did spurt at last from skull dry breasts

while the black coated penguins

carefully measure their mincing strides

earnest as lawyers arguing a case

lost long before they crawled out of their eggs.

The ocean shimmers all the way to the mainland.

There are drinks to be sipped on the ferry

the wonderful wildness of wind on your face

the curio shops beckon

and Mandela’s smile soothes.

But somewhere we know

a man waits

smoking a quiet cigarette

outside the dispossessed prison

waits for the next bus load

for the guilty caress of notes

on the expressionless palm

whose lines have bound him to Robben Island.


3 thoughts on “ROBBEN ISLAND

  1. wow thats simply awesome, the poem an dissertation here is a trip, south africe anything bout it reminds me of mike and oliver and their movie coast to coast from trike that flew acrosss africa coast to coast the year before they flew round the werld yes a beautiful country i’d like to go fly my trike over, but guess ill have to settle for thier movie lol…kewl post , intriguing to me anyhow! namaste 2 u frum Q

  2. Beautiful words to describe a horrific past. I can almost hear the screams or frustration, fear and torture. I hope we are gradually moving towards a word that embraces, rather than imprisons humanity.


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