Surrounded by a high, razor-crowned fence
With shards of broken glass
As an extra deterrent
And electrified wires
And metal grilles, and German shepherds
And Maasai, ‘Waria’, or G4S
Our world and theirs,
Like parallel universes.

Ours is suburbia –
Paved pathways in estates
And two cars in every garage
Uptown apartments and swanky bungalows
Tastefully furnished with couture leather,
Persian rugs and state-of-the-art gadgets.

I wander through the well-kept playground
With nets in the goalposts and everything
It’s four o’clock and the ground’s empty
But even from here I can almost hear
The cheers and the groans
As chances are created and missed
And the furious button bashing
Tells me that football never went out of fashion –
They just made a new version.

Step outside the gate
And into the Other Side
With the makeshift ‘mabati’ shacks
And the narrow, dusty pathways –
With the ‘houses’ crowding in on either side
Jostling for space –

On the other side of the wall
You hardly ever see your neighbours
They’re a comfortable hedge away
But here, we smell their lunch
And hear every restless insomniac turn
We’re woken by their babies
And, by mutual agreement,
Only one radio set
Is ever on at a time…
Besides, it saves batteries.

The children kick their polythene balls
Along the narrow, dusty pathways
Skinny, scrawny, barefoot boys
Running after each other
Or away from their mothers
Dragging behind them little boxes on wheels
Made of bottle tops with punctures in them
Or rolling along – making engine noises –
Discarded tires with punctures in them –

The old men sit around
Intensely concentrated on their game of draughts
Or the young men sitting around
With loud voices and lewd jokes
Around rusty metal cups
High on methanol –
Like, “Ata mkizima stima, bado tutakunywa!”

Faces hardened by hardship
Eyes dimmed by despair
Young women carry around their babies
Looking for work so they can feed them
As their countrymen across the Wall
Have enough and more than enough
And dream ever of having more.

“Indeed,” says Dedan
Back from the shadow,
His eyes no longer deadened
“Such strange bedfellows!
Squalor and Splendour
Sharing the same pillow.”
And he wonders how his struggle –
The seeds that he planted
Watered with blood, the future that he fought for
Come to such a strange fruition…

The Haves have it all
And want more.
The Have-nots have nothing
And ask only for a chance
A people divided by invisible walls
As insurmountable
As an Iron Curtain.

Two people in a bed
On a cold, cold night
One – slowly but surely –
Inch by inch, takes all the blanket –
Which is large enough for both –
And all the pillow –
Which is wide enough for both –
Leaving the other destitute,
Trembling in the cold.
How long before
The disgruntled, shivering sufferer
In the dead of the blackest night
Smothers his ungrateful partner
And takes everything for his own?