21 hits for Wopko Jensma

Wopko Jensma, still on the weed

I never guessed your fame, or infamy,
when you were my too-brief friend.
Imagine the surprise when I Googled:
and-Wopko and-Jensma  GO.
“21 hits for +Wopko +Jensma”,
and an ironic footnote
boasted: “Buy Wopko Jensma on the Web”.
So this is what they told me:

I:         Where you came from

You were the gutter poet laureate,
an outcast; the multi-hued
son of no cultures, and all. Apartheid’s
bogey-man, the tokolosh
that frightened decent white folk by starlight,
black night, grinning and gurning.

You were a nation’s reproachful mirror,
hung in a hall of mirrors.
made us tall, they made us thin: only
you could make us look within.
Yet what use is a mirror reflecting
blackness instead of the light?

Your pen was dry, your brush broken, they said.
Your days fumbling and mumbling
at a dirty scrap of paper: unread.
A shopping list? A tattered
memory? Or just your name – the last thread
in a fraying tapestry.

 II:        Where did you go?

Enough of this! Your poems never rhymed,
and your life never quite scanned,
but your ending was exquisitely timed.
Your elegant elegy
was a hundred words long on page twenty-
three of the Rand Daily Mail.

They called you a black man trapped in white skin,
and talked of your torment, a
poet and artist with psyche too thin.
You never seemed torn to me:
Not on the bus to our factory jobs;
Not on a night in the town.

At a party a philosopher threw,
you put words to my question:
“The boy wants to know what’s the meaning of life.”
The thinker confessed that he
hadn’t a clue – and he got drunk; Wopko
didn’t know – and he got drunk.

I thought that some girls in latex & lace
might be my answer: but they
only told me that the booze was a clue.
So we drank, until dawn rose
sweating and sick, and our skulls clanged to
rhythms and rhymes we had sung.

You taught me a beard hid a smirk from the world.
I thought your art was a game
and so did you. You practised karate,
quit sugar, drove to work.
You the vegetarian slipped rashers
of bacon into your stew;

You the reluctant, repentant smoker
sucked second-hand nicotine
from the misty blue breath of a whore in
a club close by the docks
where sex was the cheapest item for sale
and we only left with our lives.

You told me your demons were buried and gone;
but the day that you loaded
your Beetle with vital belongings I
noticed how few that they were.
Was your baggage already all packed in the mind?
Did you know what you meant by goodbye?

Artwork by Wopko Jensma


One thought on “21 hits for Wopko Jensma

  1. My name is wilko ,i was a friend of wopko in the nineten seventies, he stayd on and off with me in pretoria vor some years, my adress at that time you find in his poem – die herren grosz und luginbühl in the offing -.(i must show you my clippings ) when he loaded his beetle i guess this was in durban he was most likely on the way to this adress.What do you know about how he died? i meet him last in 1992 or 93 on a visit to SA. do you know any of his children? i would like to make contact with them
    i would be happy to hear from you
    wilko (www.bwana-toras.com)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s