In another time, in another life, Franz would
have been a school teacher –
A tall, dignified, black man with a rare
He still knew how to show just the right
amount of deference to his white bosses and
tolerance for their little, white grandchild,
who took a shine to him and followed him
around like the Pied Piper as he collected the,
battery eggs, tended to the chicken runs, or sat
and rolled his unfiltered cigarettes with
‘Little froggies go to school’, he would
recite to my delight, ‘down beside a
rocky pool’, I would join in.
‘Little froggies are so gay’, we’d intone
when it had another meaning, ‘first we
learn and then we play’.
‘Say it again!’ I would howl with laughter,
as my four-year-old self thrilled at his
patient, but tedious repetition of my
favourite, nursery rhyme.
Throughout it all, he smiled, and put up
with my presence; answering my cacophony
of questions, explaining things that peaked
my curiosity, watching out for my welfare
and carefully guiding me with unwearying
wisdom, because he knew that he could
never discipline me.
I still think of him fondly, and for years
enquired about his welfare until I heard
about his passing – My rare, black, Master
in a country parted by hate.
A poem about a young, white boy growing up during Apartheid, and his relationship with a black farm worker.