16 September 2014

Tuesday Poem: How a man chooses to die

The trumpet of the morning glory blows hot wind
my way, and I know it is how he chose to die, at seventeen
at the foot of the fence below a group of leaping flames.
Red is harder yellow, and as both mixed in the middle
to form the fire’s centre, which is itself blue, the tomb
accepted him as it accepts the fast death of these leaps
near the end of summer. He knew how to die, my brother,
and he did it so that we could not perish. When he was ready
he curled inside the abyss of nineteen seventy eight,
or nine, we don’t know, and slept, and not to be outdone,
like butterfly hunters we ran after his soul and caught it
with our nets and interred it next to the copses whose flames
flower always by leaping at the sun, along a fence that flows
to keep out the turmoil of prying eyes. Rocks knew him
and will now still know his estate, the legacy that beautifies
a venture and makes us part today of who he was. I swear
that all of this is not untrue as long as man shall live; music
floats from the mouths of those trumpets like jazz
at the end of a sunny day, when the heavens reflect
what the world has sown in the heart, good or bad,
whether known or unknown. I believe in the three cities:
in good, in the only ghost, and in the sun. The trumpet wails
over the walls of a world until we find the child who is lost.

Please read other Tuesday poems at http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.fr

13 September 2014

Way back home

~for Joe Sample

Way back home the antelopes jump higher
than the daylight sun since you came, a sound comes
from the ends of festive nights in the breath of one song.
The concert drank from the calabash we passed around
all night long, and electric was the experience.
Bass, fingers and brass. When the meaning of metal
fills the air we know that it has emptied a few souls
in order to do so. We jived we don’t know how
to what we perceived as the innovation of life.
Sax and sex, drum and dream, the Crusaders
brought their religion to my youth and turned me
into a believer. I'm born again, or I was already born
and just didn't know it. That music fills the atmosphere
of my nation, that music fills my national experience.
Xylophone, live is the rare bit of your cut. The thorn
of your horn pierces my conscience. Why did you have to go?
Why did I have to know you only to have to let you
leave now? Way back home girls with stove pipes on
dance the snake face of your moon up from a basket,
easy you come, easy you emerge, hanging in the sky
while the concert drinks from night’s calabash
the memory of that one night when Maseru
was ablaze with you, and your war was being won
not with swords, but with notes and eclectic words.
-13 September 2014

10 September 2014

The Sophisticated Skinhead

We don't need
you here,
We can help you
out there
In your homeland
Go home nigger
We don't need you nigger


The day you empty your
Ethnographic museums
And send our souls back
To our homeland
Then we will know
You are for real
© Lefifi Tladi
© Picture credit and copyright

9 September 2014

The arrival of a poem

Every time words fall into the crystal of my poem
I’m startled, what was once a wish to set down
the course of my life, or part of it, my encounter
with the devil, the faces of politicians in their smug
empire, becomes stark reality. I move with chimes
that come from a humble, morning hello, and again
with the neighbour’s own version of it when it comes
floating back. I sail on the subway and come to a stop
where the wind is dying, where a sign shouts STOP
to the quiet dark. I know when the words have fallen
into place because the seam is gone between you
and me, my voice, my fear of failing. And because
I have managed to bed all the girls who flaunt things
in the face of my elevator going down in the morning
and going up at night. That is the best part. And then
I read the poem to weed out all luxury: give me bread
and water but give me life! Unhang the bodies dangling
from the branches, they have done their time, and drink
from the cup Jesus is purported to have drunk from,
break that same bread, taste that same wine, but instead
of thirteen, eat and laugh at the table of billions. The poem
wants to spread itself over the valley and sing to the sun
the song of lost memories, but I harness it and tell it
not to think so much. Ad-lib, I tell it. Fall like snow
in the Kalahari, rise like water up the ‘Maletsunyane falls,
jump over life like Thabana Ntlenyana. But the poem
is getting tired, and it closes one eye slowly, like a child
being read to at bedtime, and finally, the other eye;
tomorrow it will rise with the life of a night’s sleep.