Doing the City


October 18, 2016 by petrujviljoen


The confines of the flat too oppressive to be in by myself. Nearing Rockey Street two guys wave a bag of marijuana in my face. Casually I grab it and walk on not bothering to look back, in too much of a bad mood to care. My long army coat flaps in the wind, hands thrust deep into the pockets. Something the city taught me; know its rhythm, walk swiftly. I round the corner, where most times a group of dealers hang out.

Art, the owner – I later called him Arthur in answer to the question: what do you do – Art. The deliberate confusion with the man as to the activity … anyway … I get the customary nod and join the regulars playing backgammon. Later, the two guys whose bag I took made eye contact. Was that a smile? Earlier the warning – the cops are out.

system charged too high

jazz traces every nerve end

– the danger has passed.


Linked to Dverse Poets

38 thoughts on “Doing the City

  1. Hi Petru, long time without knowing about you. I am in SA., based in Cape Town. If you come around, would be nice to greet you finally. Love

    • Hi Vanessa! What a bummer! I’m about 1600 kms + away from Cape Town, based in the north of the province Mpumalanga, beyond Swaziland! I don’t have the means to get to Cape Town at the moment. It’s very costly to fly even if I could get to an airport, the nearest a 100kms away from where I am. I don’t have my own vehicle unfortunately either. It’s a battle getting to my closest town, only 12 km from where I live to get groceries even! I depend on people living close by to give me a lift to town and back when I need something. I was busy with an online writing course and ignored everything else, including this blog, in order to concentrate on it. Ah man! How long are you in South Africa for? Have you contacted Zubeida?

    • If you could make your way up here though? … and if you want to contact me via email:

  2. Bryan Ens says:

    You have really taken us into the dark places. Well done!

  3. Strange comments. You owe me R20 for the zol!

    • It was R15 in my time for a bankie but I think I remember it having gone up. You’d understand if I don’t remember everything. Comments are fraught sometimes if not wrought.

      • Down the corner of Rockey Street and Hunter I believe where the Zulu sand doth aqcuire a strange richness and glow, we move things that are unknown to us at the time, like funnel-stepped and unfunnelled spiders we cannot tell the difference between the two.

        • I was going to answer with another poem but all creativity fell flat for the moment. Wonderful though! Lived various places in Yeoville. Not least cnr Hunter.

        • Crazy, innocent and not so, times. I remember the square smooth cement paving stones of the sidewalk,schwarma’s from Ba-pita or was it Mi-vami? Night time on my bike, rolling down the street, arriving in style, if you dig what I mean? Yes it was crazy and beautiful…and young.

        • As I read the comments about the dark of it I was rather bemused. We didn’t think we were in a dark space. Innocence, even purity at times. It was Ba-Pita. I looked at the band, thoroughly stoned each and everyone of them and some not only dagga. Glad I lived it.

        • Johannesburg had a strange space in he eighties….part Calvanist whose protection we enjoyed while we pursued our mildly hedonistic endeavours. Sure there was some hashish and some charlie and whatever the nurses stole from the Joburg Gen, but it’s nothing like what I can see about everyday, living in the Council Estates of Britain. This place is dark. Glad I’m living it…? Bored.

        • I wondered at myself for posting something from that time. I think, because of where I am now, there are aspects of the mindset at the time I needed to remind myself of. Certainly don’t want to go back to the lifestyle. You nailed it with the Calvanist dogma, which can be real darkness if you’re honest.

        • Too many of the stories are in the hands of the masters of the white language, not so?

        • What makes you thin it’s so different in any other language, with the possible exception of Tibetan maybe?

        • I think words like hunger mean different things in languages other than english.

        • Yeah … hunger – when the bottom has fallen out …

  4. rosemawrites says:

    oh. dark and dreary. the danger is tangible.

  5. This really pulled me into that street culture, gave me the sense of what it means to take a risk, to face danger. Nicely done.

  6. I knew a guy named Kunstler, called him Art. He didn’t get the joke. You are right: jazz is urban, knows its city’s rhythm—deliberate confusion tracing every nerve.

  7. comes through as Street smart and confidant

  8. There is so much action going on, the image of what happens if you look closely, and the art of Art adds so much…

  9. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Every inner city needs a poet to paint its livelihood, the dirt under the fingernails; excellent piece. I too like the line /jazz traces every nerve end/. For me, depending on the day, jazz, blues, & kick-ass rock n’ roll help me to roll, & classical its me to sleep.

  10. kanzensakura says:

    I never would have figured you for a pot grabber…nice to know this about you. I really liked this haibun muchly. Excellent job!

  11. Mish says:

    I like the risk and edginess in this..just enough of it to lure you in. I could see the scene develop and I really liked the interesting side story of “Art”.

  12. lillian says:

    “jazz traces every nerve end…”
    The prose is really hard to read. I’ve been reading these all morning and it’s actually quite depressing. Somehow I missed that the prompt was to be about the underbelly of the city. I wrote in positive terms — a little oasis in the midst of all this grit.
    I do like this idea of jazz in the city — and its nerve ends being felt within the music itself.

  13. Brian says:

    What a gritty poem. It’s all action and movement and sound and danger.

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