Sunday, 5 April 2015

Wandering minstrel

A tribute to John Oliver priest of St Mark’s District Six,
written for his retirement at the end of March.
John visited the McGregor Poetry Festival in June and
died in his sleep, two weeks later on 4 July 2013

Bob Commin

Wandering minstrel in the streets of District Six
guitar-guiding your Anglican followers
through Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Seven Steps
to place our cross above the University and the Bay
the cross of all our displacements and longings.
Our history of forgotten homes and vacant streets.
You have fathered us through the winters and summers
of our future,
your gentle voice of reason
like the Christ on the Emmaus road
interpreting our doubts
from Mandela’s freedom walk
through the Marikana strike
the front pages of corruption
opening the scriptures to us
to ignite the heart within.
Faithful in our grieving
through all our rain-drenched, mud-filled days

the roof howling above our heads.


Priest to all faiths and nations
you call us beyond a fledgling allegiance
to a deep honouring of all people
to the image of God seeding in them.
We find you in places of pain and celebration
the Christ at Jericho, the Christ at Cana
often behind a camera, to catch a story.

These sandstones rise up to tell of a vibrant people
who sing and dance the liturgy of life.
From the carved-out undercroft of our gatherings
to the wind-wracked bell tower
that rings our presence
your prayer-dreams have sustained us like music
and have become the rock on which we build



From: McGregor Poetry Anthology 2013
Published by African Sun Press in association with the McGregor Poetry Festival
ISBN number 978-0-620-62302-5



The Poet:


Bob Commin is a poet and storyteller. He grew up in Woodstock, Cape Town and has taught in schools in Scotland and England. Latterly he runs workshops on creativity, storytelling and poetry. His most recent publication is Under the Ilex Tree. Leon de Kock is a poet, translator, essayist, writer of fiction, literary translator and professional literary practitioner. He has published three volumes of poetry: Bloodsong (1997); gone to the edges (2006); and Bodyhood (2010). He was awarded the Pringle Prize for Poetry and the FNB Vita/English Academy Prize for Poetry Translation. His translation of Marlene van Niekerk’s major Afrikaans novel Triomf won the South African Translators Institute’s Award for Outstanding Translation in 2000. He is Professor of English at the University of Stellenbosch, having formerly served as an English professor at both the University of the Witwatersrand, where he was Head of the School of Literature and Language Studies, and the University of South Africa.


Previously published:

Bob Commin: Wandering minstrel from the June 2013 edition of Good Hope