A (long) poem for a prince - for Prince Twala

When there was nothing. When the suits and the transactions and the pin stripes were away, waiting, there were others who walked through the city gates and lit the fire, and fanned the flames and watched them carefully, to make sure any death was only temporary. And so the city lived, even when it died, and slowly the suits buttoned themselves back up and came to see where this strange light was coming from.


They did not hear the broken, jazzy beat, calling beneath the streets. But the flame was bright and it captured them, and so they called their transactions, their engagements, and they said come, there is light here, let us walk in it.


Soon, the light was so big, so bright, the damage of the heat was forgotten.


And no one asked, 'who lit this fire every morning while we were away?'


Still, life goes on. There is art in the cracks of the pavement and love works the street corners, looking for a place to be. And the beat goes on. And people hear it, or ignore it, or take it for their own. And the pin stripes work, and transactions are made, and things grow, and shrink, and live and die, and underneath it all the beat goes on, the wire curls into a hook, the rubbish reforms into a young girl's master's thesis and the jazz plays. Because jazz is like that.


And some people cried foul. They said, 'what about those who lit this fire when everything was dark?'


But the world did not listen. Because it never does. Because the journey is the art, and those who walk, or who have walked, those who light fires, who keep flames... they were not born to recognition, to crowds or applauding critics. They were born to keep us alive. To light the dark. To bring heat to cold, breaking streets.


Still, people cried. There is no justice they said. And the suits nodded, and wrote cheques, which were cashed, and turned into transactions, and more gas was thrown on the flames, and the light grew, and the heat, higher, and higher... hotter and hotter...


And the world carried on – regardless. And the street walkers, the flame keepers, the bringers of life remained as they always have been, forced by destiny to create their own light: to eat it, to sleep on it, and to give it away when asked.


There is jazz beneath these streets. And only those who hear, walk to a broken, jazzy beat.

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