To Neil:[1]

I could never, Neil

I could never be

(3000 strong the throng voicing some sort of struggle song

all the time it’s my body they carry along

lay it down low in the grave as they lift up high my name),

THAT could never be me,

I don’t have it in me.

I’m not the man that martyrs are made from.

The wrong song book so no Sousa, no Sontonga,

no glory no wonder at the way I may have lived on if I had lived on.


nothing but the wonder and the why’s as they examine my eyes locked forever in perpetual distance (into the future and farther, modeled as a modernist Guevara), more then just a man’s eyes now, more than man size, now I become more then just a man, I become canonized, categorized as a comrade of the cause, I become the cause, I cause what is to come, what is to be,

that’s what your eyes say to me and I know

to be, Neil, that could never be me.

Neil, me, Neil, I?


Too much I kneel already.

Prostrate position under the weight of whatever I still carry from when you first lent your weight to what would be mine … my whiteness carries a weight without the worthiness that yours did where your skin was an open page to write resistance on.


mine is a closed cage there is no distance from.

Neil, under your weight I have to kneel, and dream of your fight to never kneel.

Neil, your weight continues to bend backs of those that carry a cause forward coz four words work where whole poems have failed, four words like:

“Hasta la Victoria siempre” simply they say: we carry the weight

heavy until light

streams into what

seems perpetual night, like

dreams do.

Neil, I’ve dreamed you.

Neil, you might’ve dreamed me.

But Neil, I could never be you.

Neil, before you never was I as bruised by what white is,

before you never was I as confused by what white is,

before you was a whiteness you challenged with patient wisdom,

kneel before you with the hopes of being blessed with similar vision.

Now your eyes are static signs of how short a lifetime can be.

Now I know that what they show is it’s not in me to kneel,

So, To Neil:

We miss you and your mysterious mind. All the wisdom it held we would reveal.

Until then,

a tribute

to Neil.



[Reduce presence; sink into self; contained in a corner; stoic and static and:]

Voice (of Neil?):

“It was never going to be isolation that did me. This isolation they used, intending to abuse me into bruised sanity was never going to work. I was too used to isolation and its usefulness to me and my wanderings within. There was isolation in everything I had made mine, including my mind. Isolation was a friend. It’s in the way that my soul’s weighted: to be isolated is no danger to me. It’s where I’m found most free: in me and my world’s work. There was their danger: my world’s work. There was their world: my work’s danger was that their world wanted less of me. Irony really. There wasn’t much of me to begin with. Just enough to work its way into their fears, to get under their skin. They couldn’t understand a man working within their world but working against them, from within their world, from under (from within) their skin. When you’re white you can go either way. When you can go either way you usually go away from what’s white. At least I did. There was the fright: white man goes wrong way. Catch him. Contain him. Put him away. Let him be alone…without knowing that that’s exactly where he wanted to be…isolation would never end me…it had to be something else…some other sort of suffocation if I wouldn’t suffocate myself.”

[1] Neil Aggett (1953-1982) was a white South African medical doctor and trade union organizer who died while in detention after being arrested by the South African Security Police.

About the Author

Spoken word artist, rapper, activist, and educator Iain “Ewok” Robinson uses hip-hop practice to galvanize communities around social justice issues. An aerosoloist and graffiti artist, he has painted banners and canvasses for environmental and social justice groups such as the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation, COP17 for climate justice, and he paints for Palestine every year. He is a Dennis Brutus Community Scholar at the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and teaches at Clifton College, an independent boys school in Durban, where he founded the Clifton Spoken Word Society. He has authored and performed several one-man stage shows through Amhelo Productions with Karen Logan: Seriously? (2007), YOBO: You’re Only Born Once (2015), I to I (2015) with UK-based artist Kat Francois, and Unentitled (2017), a full frontal excavation of whiteness that premiered at The Quick Center in the USA in Fall 2017. He also has two anthologies of poetry and four albums of recorded music and spoken word to his name.