My father was a strongman,
he worked all his life,
tended cattle growing up,
then the Gauteng bug bit.
He had a stint as a nightwatchman
then laboured as the factory hand.
Soon arrived his young bride
and they bred a good brood,
nine to be exact.
He had a pair of good shoes for travel
and a pair of strong takkies for work
since money went to school fees
and groceries, whilst coins
went to smokes and home brew.
In time the strain and ill-health
fed him to stroke and HBP.

He couldn’t work any more –
no use to the white man,
not much use to his family.
We tore through his pension
and blue card (UIF)…
and he watched with despair
from his wheelchair
as the little life he had gathered
slowly disintegrated,
and sucked it all in –
tigers don’t cry.

He did not know
his exact date of birth, but
his dompas said February 1937.
I couldn’t remember his birthday,
we weren’t living together
when he died
one cold day of 1994.

Papa Sam,
I only wanted to say: ‘Happy Birthday.’
We won’t forget.
You fought.