3 November 2019

My mother's calendar, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

We have learned to abide by our mother’s language
and by her calendar, when we’re in her presence.
Every time she mentions him it’s to relate a part of life
to the years when he was with us. Old… has become…
when your father was alive, and some of us have begun
to speak like her too, the same way we began
to love people after observing her. Now… is… since he
died, and we even hear what she does not dare say:…
and left me behind. Our mother looks like her mother
and my sisters look like her. The boys in my family
all look like each other, and yearn to take after him.
In the future…, or... soon…, is fast becoming…
the day I am with your father and you are free at last,
even though she set us free at birth just after she had handed
each of us to the midwife for cleaning, and we had been
returned to her arms for the first breakfast of our lives.

29 October 2019

Anniversary, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

I told my wife we were nothing to this world,
had worked for years in the cotton industry, spinning yarn
being weakened there, flushed with wine,
we had to have kids, raise a family, build a home.
Everyone was doing it.
The more children we had the more our old days
would be easier, once our weekend came
with its age of purple gums and stale livers.
They will take care of us then, protect us
like a house protects a home, a birthplace, a name.
But in the end we had none at all and finished our days
in the town sweatshops of Ha-Thetsane
with foreign bosses who pink-slipped us
a month before our anniversary.
We decided to take pills that day, after agreeing
we were already dead and might as well get high,
to contrast the level at which we had lived our lives;
and in one night of amphetamines mixed
with my wife’s zolpidem, crushed into angel dust,
we rose on the wings of death and rose and rose.

25 October 2019

On freedom, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

we summon no parent,
nor sibling—nor deity
nor mercy, but hasten
into that righter world.
Days come with desire,
and nutrition is a table.
Look at the south hawk
scan this fallow land,
see a north buffalo rise
to its greener purpose,
hoof the urine-yellow
grass, and breed woman
and man from a child
the way eggs do chicks.
For no one can in pity
suck the dark marrow
from our names. Or
become the measure
of our own prophecy.

Sonnet for Hannibal, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

We heave skyward with a bolder
Push, from the broad of our backs,

With Sisyphus’s old boulder
In the way and blood in our tracks.

Our elephants cross the Pyrénées,
Reach the limits of Rome, where we fight

Everything we encounter, the way
Man counts on himself, then head right

back to Carthage, losing combatants
and beasts to the elements. We take

nothing except what our opponents
took from us, till the sun soaks back

into us and what we decide to do:
is sit, with a smile, and wait for you.

Image of Hannibal Barca

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