Housing Targets Poem by Kelwyn Sole Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “Housing Targets” is written by Kelwyn Sole. It was first published in her poetry collection named “Love That Is Night” in 1993. The poet in this poem talks about the promise of providing housing facilities to the underprivileged. Sole himself was born in a lower-middle-class family and thus knows the suffering of the poor and unfortunate who are denied basic shelter and facilities. The poem focuses on the people who were given the promise of housing in the poet-apartheid South Africa, but that promise was never realized and people are still living with the fake promises and dreams.

About the poet

Kelwyn Sole was born in 1951 in Johannesburg, South America. He is a poet and an academic. He focuses on the concepts of South African and postcolonial literature in his works. He was a co-editor of Donga, a literary journal. He has won numerous awards including the Olive Schreiner Prize for poetry in 1989 and South African Literary Award for Poetry in 2018. He has also published more than 6 poetry collections including “The Blood of Our Silence, Ravan” in 1988 and “Love That is Night” in 1998.


The poem is written in the free-verse form. It consists of 10 stanzas, each varying in length. Some stanzas are written in the couplet form and some stanzas are written in 4-5 lines.

Lines 1-12

Somewhere in our past

we believed in the future

that a better world

would discover foundation

under our feet, and we

would forever be singing,

in its kitchen.

Bricks pile up in a field.

Whether they will be enough

no one knows. How

they fit together

is anybody’s guess.


The poem begins with the speaker reflecting on a time when people had hope for the future. He says that all of them believed in the possibility of a better world. Him and others like him thought that the new future there would be a better world and this improved world would provide a stable foundation for their lives. In the warmth of their new homes and kitchens they would sing joyfully. However, the speaker shows that the reality now is just a field filled with piled-up bricks. Nobody knows whether these bricks will be sufficient and how they will come together to form something meaningful. All the materials are present but scattered and can no longer be used to create something cohesive.


The poet talks about a time when people were hopeful about the future, thinking it would be better. He captures a shift from hopeful anticipation to the stark reality of unfulfilled promises. The poet uses a nostalgic tone at the beginning to reflect the collective belief of the community in a brighter future.They believed in building a stable world. The imagery shifts to a field with piled-up bricks, showing unfulfilled promises. The poet uses the image of the piled up brick to signify the stark contrast between what was promised and what was delivered. Moreover, the poet says that it’s uncertain if these bricks are enough or how they’ll fit together. This symbolizes the disappointment that everyone feels. The poet makes use of visual imagery to convey shattered dreams and the struggle to make hopeful visions a reality.

Lines 13-25

Men with darkening skins

scribbled on by weather

wait for their instructions.

From time to time

limousines miraculously appear:

there is always a somebody

in a suit willing to smile

and shake their hands

who lays the first stone.

Then the camera lights

and racing engines

turn around, shrink back

from where they came.


In these lines, the speaker observes men with weathered, darkening skin waiting for instructions. He says that occasionally, limousines arrive with someone in a suit willing to smile, shake hands, and lay the first stone, marking an event or project’s initiation. The speaker notes the presence of cameras, lights, and racing engines that swiftly retreat after their brief appearance. The lines capture a scene of symbolic importance, where individuals from different backgrounds engage in ceremonial activities, reflecting the dynamics of power and ceremony.


In these lines, the poet talks about the men with weathered skin, marked by the elements, waiting for instructions from a higher authority. He says that from time to time luxury cars would arrive. The poet uses the image of the arrival of limousines with someone in a suit, willing to smile and lay the first stone, to symbolize a ceremonial event. The poet notes the transient nature of this attention, as camera lights and racing engines quickly go back. He uses vivid imagery, such as “scribbled on by weather,” to create a tangible sense of the men’s experiences. He explored the themes of power dynamics, ceremony, and the contrast between symbolic actions and the reality faced by the men.

Lines 26-41

Those left behind

stare at their own hands

afterwards, puzzled

at precisely what

has been transacted, why

they are still being offered



between gnarled fingers

pace out the hopeful distances:

- there will be a flower bowl.

- my bed is going to be here.

As for now the doorknobs

have no doors.

Their windows peer out

at no sky.


In the last part of the poem, the speaker talks about the people left behind after all the promises and actions. These people seem confused, looking at their own hands and wondering about the uncertain transactions. The speaker says that although they are given financial bonds, they remain unsure about what has actually happened. Have they really benefited from the entire situation. The speaker describes them as trying to envision a better future, thinking about a flower bowl or a designated bed in a house that will never be made for them. He highlights how the reality is harsh – the doorknobs have no doors, and the windows show no sky. 


In the last part of the poem, the poet talks about people who are left feeling confused and unsure after all the promises. They hold financial bonds, but they don’t really understand what has happened or if they’ve truly gained anything. The poet describes them trying to imagine a better future, thinking about having a flower bowl or a bed in a house that might never be built for them. The reality is tough – the doorknobs have no doors, and the windows show no sky. This image painted by the poet highlights the disappointment and unmet expectations of the people, emphasizing the gap between what was hoped for and what actually happened.