Sense of Place

I was a little startled to be asked by Makhubalo and Lungile Ikaneng of uBuntu Nest to participate in their OneMuntu Storytelling Festival. However, it did not take me long to get over myself and accept. Everyone is doing something new and online these days, so why not me?

After having to cancel live performances scheduled over the past few months, this creative duo decided that uBuntu needed to shine and dreamed up the OneMuntu Storytelling Festival. “We have all been hidden away from each other, our faces covered for months. Is it not time to see a face, a grin, a smile or a tear?” asks Makhubalo. “OneMuntu Storytelling Festival is about connecting one on one through a story. Muntu is the isiZulu word for person. When one person connects with another, magic can happen. It is uBuntu unveiled. In the past year I have seen poets take audiences on journeys, young writers putting their souls to paper, actors tell stories and brave change makers lead by example. I have seen all of this in the Midlands. It is our absolute honor to bring a few of these stories to you at the OneMuntu Storytelling Festival.”

My segment, to be aired on 4 September at 7pm, and Sunday 6th at 6pm is called Sense of Place. It is a collection of my poems that celebrate being alive in the KZN Midlands, and offer glimpses of places that I explore.  As many poets find (especially novice ones like me), inspiration strikes in unexpected spots. For me, it is usually arrives while I am walking. Succulent sentences that pop into my head, and then try to escape as I cling on desperately until I can get home, grab a pencil and jot them down. Generally, sense of place describes our relationship with places, reflecting the emotional bond between people and places through a particular lens – be it ecological, social, economic, cultural, aesthetic or historical. Sense of place defines how people interpret and interact with their world.

“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” Roald Dahl.

The monthly Steampunk Poets gathering has made me brave enough to share some memories woven through words. A warm and supportive audience that has encouraged many fledgling poets to thrive, producing three books over the years filled with wondrous local words. Read about Steampunk Poets here.

As this is my debut poetry performance, not well rehearsed or particularly accomplished, I thought I would write the words of the poems down for viewers to read in case it is difficult to hear. I know how fast I talk! Will I be able to slow down for the performance? Unlikely.

A Pocketful of Morning

This poem captures some of things I experience on my daily dawn walks along the banks of the uMngeni River in Howick. I think that it is a good idea to collect treasures on quiet early wanders, to finger in your pocket, or linger over when the unreal world is too insistent later in the day.

Damp duck beaks

Raptor feet tucked tight

A herald of hadedas who contemplate flight

A translucent flutter

Copper coloured cheers

A cold cluster of Combretum leaves

Red poker glow

Webs well spun

Sorbet stripes that beckon the sun

Single-legged silhouette

Horizon full of moon

Aloe arborescence in orange bloom

Expert weaves

Elusive scents

Ruby lilies with a foreign accent

Popcorn clouds

Real connections

And rocks, settled into their deep reflections

Eating Weeds

I love to forage on my walks and add wild ingredients to my meals. When I was a child, I didn’t eat the weeds, but I did love their pretty flowers and felt sad that they were unloved.

When I was little

a lot littler than today

I professed a love of weeds

That never went away.

When I grow up I did declare

my garden shall be full

of dandelion yellow and chickweed stars

and trifoliate oxalis as well

My aunt responded with concern

no one will want to visit you

but oddly enough

my friends often come

to feast on wild green stew

Great Aunts

As little children, we had lots of Great Aunts – some widowed and some never married. Lots of women living without men. Something to do with the war, we thought. They were absolute treasure and added a multitude of experiences to my childhood – especially as we did not have any grandparents.  They clearly had a big influence on me as I recall dressing up in an old frock of my mother’s and pretending to be one! I believe every family needs Great Aunts – or at least a couple of unmarried Aunts.

Great Aunts are fabulous things

Everyone needs a few

Half a dozen is best

Elsie, Nelsie, Gladys and Myrtle, Jessie and Flora too.

With wrinkly, crinkly bangled arms

Saggy soft powdered jowls

Pinafore pockets with hidden treats

Neat gloves and hats and stockinged feet.

Squeaky drawers with sticky surprises

Worn benches to sit on for tea

Fragrant fresh baked, buttered bread

Red jam with scones at three.

Great Aunts send extravagantly wrapped gifts of wondrous things, and

Ink inscribed cards to mark every occasion.

What! You have none of your own or an extra required?

Just imagine – Great Aunt Ethel

Wearing wine coloured velvet and an imperious air.

Feral in the Free State

Since I first followed the intriguing signpost opposite Intabazwe in Harrismith, I have loved Verkykerskop. I wrote this poem on my last visit there, as the creative duo Beth Hilary and Matt Hofman were packing up to leave.

High Tea

I walked to Lesotho a couple of years ago and slept in a cave along the way. It was a fabulous experience, which you can read about here.

I carried my cup to a cave with a tarn on top


Positioned it on a rock to capture the feral falling drops


Soon it overflows with wild, mineral drenched mountain water


The camp stove adds star bubbles and welcome warmth


I drink in the silence-soaked views as the liquid seeps into my limbs

What’s in a Word?

This poem was selected for the 2019 edition of the Sol Plaatjies Anthology. I wrote it after a ring-necked dove flew into my window and died. I placed the bird under a tree and for two weeks I observed another ring-necked dove right beside it, sometimes just sitting, sometimes flapping it’s wings or pecking at it.  I know that doves mate for life, so assumed that this was the bird’s partner.

People are often disparaging about birds – think ‘birdbrain’ – and in particular, pigeons and doves are ridiculed because they have successfully carved out an existence alongside humans, despite the ravages to the planet and millions of other species.

Watching this scene made me sad. It also made me think about how astonishing life is.  How little we understand. How everything is connected and part of everything else.  As Paul pointed out – the Buddhist concept of no-self and emptiness – nothing has an inherent essence, everything is made up of, and is dependent on, other things.

What’s in a word?


Inside a bird

is a grasshopper

and a worm

or a seed

and ancestors

all filled with

sun and soil

stardust and stories


the lego of life

don’t say bird lightly

the entire universe echoes through this single syllable


On a writing retreat in Dargle, I lay under the autumn trees and composed this ode to my favourite season.

At the Autumn Ball

gowns of old gold dance in the low-slung light

avenues shrug off saffron shawls

translucent sleeves flutter and fall

the clock strikes

the season turns

and then, it is winter


Harvard Street starts down near the Howick Falls, passes the taxi rank and ends in the suburbs. It is vibrant, colourful and busy. I like it a lot.

Enveloped in a kerbside hug

I wonder

Can everyone feel the love?

The woman behind the bundles of greens?

The taxi full of tiredness?

The hawker of continental cast offs?

I don’t want to go

I never do when I am with you

The whoonga boys eat cheap cake

A chicken scrabbles

The shoemaker concentrates on his stitches

A gap-toothed kid grins

The taxi man turns up his tunes

The girl in blue catches my eye

She noticed

For a moment we share the sidewalk

I hope someone loves you too

I tell her with my smile

The Weeks Fly By

While this was written long before the virus-induced slow-down in our world, it has been particularly relevant recently as time has literally zoomed even though not much has been going on.

The mist rolls in

the day resumes

the sun peeps out

something blooms

the damp rises

the branch aches

the web shivers

something breaks

the river runs

the postman smiles

the clouds collect

something dies

the weeks fly by

as we anticipate the one moment

an imagined date

that might make life worth the wait

the ant tickles

the stars delight

the grass soothes

everything is alright

Thank you for reading this far. If you haven’t got one already, perhaps you’d like a ticket for the performance to be aired on Friday 4th September? Part of proceeds go to the Young Authors Book Initiative – an inspiring uBuntuNest project. Come one, it is so easy to support our future writers, poets and storytellers from the comfort of your own couch. Click here for a ticket to Sense of Place – and see the options at the bottom of the Quicket page to book for the other interesting voices that will be sharing stories at this festival.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. mrmokoena says:

    My favourite is The Weeks Fly By. It brings out my happiest mood and the motive to start every day with a positive mind.♥️


    1. A good attitude Mzwa!


  2. Thanks Christeen. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Christeen says:

    I love them all Nikki, and as I read I hear your voice! I’m sure you will be splendid! xxx

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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