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Raymond Magabe


When the city sleeps


When the city sleeps
The streets have conversations about who left
And who stayed, they whisper themselves into existence
With the shuffling sound of sliding paper on tar surfaces.
Card boards lean on side railings of hawker stands,
Awaiting the coming of a new dawn
Where they will form dance floors for accessories and fast foods.

Nothing is awake when the city sleeps.
Maxima maximizes her outreaching voice to lonely men
Seeking shelter in the warmth of infidel thoughts,
And Diplomat credits the city’s diploma graduates
In the middle of the night.

When the city sleeps,
Rats rule. They come out in their grey night gowns
In search of leftovers from the hustle and bustle
Of metro-bus corner stations. They celebrate their
Findings with soft sharp giggles.

Funny enough, no one dares to rock this city to sleep,
For we have seen it live up to the labeling of the concrete jungle.
No one sings lullabies to it for the gun shot sounds
And the screeching tire sounds from the crashing cars has deafened its hearing.
No one dares to recite bed time stories to it, for it has edited
All the true stories of many man’s life that had entered its barrows.

When the city sleeps,
You can hear yourself think.
The rhythm of your heart beat along with the bass in your foot steps
Formulate a tune only you can dance to.

These city walls have no shame;
For what they have witnessed men has committed.
They do not refuse the blame for killing dreams
When they argue that they were not worth living for.

When the city sleeps,
Drug lords go on strikes of silent chanting.
They take offends when their customers become too high on life,
And wake up with smiles when the reserve accepts their cheques.

You see that tall niggar,
That tall niggar with a fake ass vodacom bandella,
Winks at night for every shuttered dream,
He looks on as some things that are worth dying for
Become nothing worth killing for.
He comes to life when the city shuns away
Explorers not ready to trade their dreams for material wishes.

When the city sleeps,
No one awake matters,
It can swallow you up into its golden jaws
And regujitate you when the morning comes.

It mourns for no life lost within its walls.
This city has streets that map lives of many brave men.
The rackling tin sound of voices from dungeons
At midnight doesn’t mean that it’s the witching hour,
The city bins shelter many a fallen spirit.

When the city sleeps,
The world is silenced,
Everyone awake is mummified,
Only their screams are amplified.

The city bares no remembrance
To fallen spirits that wake to walk the streets
When all is silenced by its roaring snores.
This city should be a home to no man,
It plays host to tourists and young ambitious actors playing their role
In this everyday life only to have them forget their essence.

When the city sleeps,
Its breeze freezes warm breathes,
It lingers in between cold sheets of high flats
Where a man’s flash rises like the tension during bedtime conversations.
The breeze stifles the life
Out of dreams that refuse to manifest.

Many claim to have mated their souls within these rusted walls,
They erase the memories of when these very walls
Looked on as their bag packs and wallets were taken away
Under their shadows when they slumber within the night.

When the city sleeps,
Echoes of warning screams reach down
From the layers of neon clouds in attempts
To save us from ourselves.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Edited: Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Topic of this poem: reality


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Poet's Notes about The Poem

written after walking across the city (Johannesburg) at 2: 00am from Newtown to Doorenfontein alone.2009

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