Every six weeks or so, I meet for lunch with David Friedland and Peter Horszowski. We’ve formalized these lunches by calling ourselves The Three Poets and, because we generally only have a few hours together, we dive straight into deep and meaningful discussions of life. I always come away loaded with new ideas and philosophical points to re-consider.
Until it closed after some dispute over the lease, our original meeting place was Porto Bello, the vegetarian restaurant in Long Street. Now we meet at Deerpark Café in Vredehoek.
Porto Bello sported a magnificent tiled Edwardian floor that was slowly being chipped away by time. I always arrived early, to reserve three seats on the long table of the mezzanine floor, and I never failed to ‘doff my hat’ at the artisans who had laid those tiles and patterns. The food was always delicious and we enjoyed the eclectic mix of tourists and businessmen who sat around us.
At Deerpark Café, the atmosphere is different. It opens onto a park and there are always children running around. There, the dessert to end a meal with is, without doubt, the pear tart.
At our most recent lunch, David told the story of how, when he went to his ‘regular’ in Milnerton for a cappuccino, the waiter told him that a customer had paid for his coffee, but that he did not wish to be identified. On a separate occasion, as David ordered his lunch, the waiter came with the same offer from the fellow diner. ‘But I’m having steak!’ exclaimed David. This time the young man, who had watched David on a number of occasions, identified himself. When asked by David why he was being so generous, the reply was: ‘Because you are a good man,’ to which David retorted, ‘No! You are a good man!’
Recognizing the good in one another … we mulled over the implications and the outcomes of this.
Each month I walk deftly to the Standard Bank
My ears dazzled by the colours of suburban streets
I speak to anyone who speaks to me
Am patient in the nudging queue
While the teller and computer trade their secrets
I depart unguarded a wealthy man again
A block from home
I hear the bus-stop approaching on my right
Where people we call blacks
Are always waiting
As I pass they croon and murmur their concern
An impulse urges me to scatter bank-notes at their feet
But I never do
At the curb a black man takes my arm to help me cross
Can’t you see I am a white man
With money in my hand to feed your family?
But he only sees my white cane searching
And the blood colour of my need
We cross the street
And go our separate ways.
When David reads his poem from a sheet of Braille
There is nothing to see –
just white stipple on white.
I am snow-blind to the poem there –
a rash of dots without gashes.
‘I use my index finger. It’s the most sensitive.’
Sensitive to a being from nothingness?
David’s sensitive index, partially collapsed and trailing
like Adam’s, limp and languid
lolling beneath God’s firm final finger.
There’s no spark of life for my index
vainly rollicking the bumps and cajoling the words.
But his stylus pointedly scans –
the marks warble his poem into being
stabbing a voice into sound
puncturing reality with his blind words.
Blind man first published in After Image by David Friedland
Snailpress in association with Quartz Press 2002
David Friedland graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand where he later lectured Latin. Since retirement, he has been a counsellor at Lifeline. He lives in Cape Town.
Peter Horszowski was born in Johannesburg, studied English and Philosophy at Wits and Italian Film and Literature at the University of Siena. He lives and works in Cape Town.