I met Keorapetse “Bra Willie” Kgositsile in 2013 at a poetry festival in Paris. He was invited by the South African poet and novelist, Denis Hirson, along with likes of Mongane Wally SeroteVonani Bila, and a host of celebrated South African literary figures. It would also be the first time I met jazz saxophonist Steve Potts, who performed alongside “Bra Wilie” on the closing ceremony;  a duet, jazz and poetry, unlike anything I’d heard before. It was strange, to see grown men with such vitality. As the poet closed with the final lines; “What the fuck is going on”, Steve began his solo, and what a solo! he paused, as if gasping for air, and said “That is for twenty years of beauty.”


I was new to poetry at the time, I didn’t know half the people around me. I could not fully appreciate what a privilege it was to have met Kgositsile,  to have heard him read, to have him read my poetry. I connected with him because he bought me a cup of tea and spoke about his time in exile with my Uncle. I never considered myself a poet, until, on that day he performed and announced “I would like to make a tribute to the next generation of South African writers” And I stood when he said my name, “Lethokuhle Msimang.” 

I remember that he did that. That he was the kind of man who would do that...And what a poet, what a heart. 


(for Baby D)

The festive heart knows that
it is always possible to do more
of what you must do
and to do it better, always

When Mingus says
he is going to play
the truth of what he is
he is not playing games

Neither is Sun Ra when he says
he actually paints pictures
of infinity with his music

And so I know that it is
always possible to do more
of what you must do
and to do it better, always
because the difference that a day
might make celebrates the day
that makes the difference

I know also that
there are scandals here
some open and loud
others closed except for
their hideous stench

So when you see me walking up
or down these streets
singing your name
it is because I’m happy
to bury the loneliness
some call freedom
as I embrace this moment where

Love leaps and soars
beyond any familiar height
or imaginable horizon
painting pictures of infinity
as it plunges into every crevice
of this festive heart of mine

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