25 August 2019

Middlesea blues, a poem by Raphael d'Abdon

We have crossed the desert and the sea to arrive here. We are
not afraid of death. If we have to die, we will die.
—15-year-old Sudanese migrant, trying to cross the French border from Italy

we sneak
into the underground corridors
of your safe existence
eager to catch bits of sun
with our broken fishnets

lighthouses illuminate the transparent walls of our life stories
as the wind steals our memories
and abandons them on the waterfronts that left us
the day we
left them

the seagulls and the waves
on whose wings we travel
vanish behind clouds
in the twilight breeze
like drumbeats do

we have been crossing seas, deserts and borders
like our ancestors did
like our children will do

keep on moving
towards the unknown

middleseas have been swallowing us
and in their belly
we have learned how to sing the blues

we are still here today
to sing it back to you

and when it is too hard to sing it
we hide it

inside a smile

(Pretoria, March 4, 2017)

This poem was first published in Muse India, Issue 73 (May-Jun 2017)
and was inspired by MiddleSea, a film by Zineb Sedira (sound by Mikhail Karikis)

Raphael d'Abdon at Poetry Africa

21 August 2019

Ntsoana-tsatsi, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

We are one with you, Ntsoana-tsatsi,
satellites of your dark meat.

We do not come from the same time
but as single mortals of your deep.

We stick a head out, shoulders, arms,
push to free the whole torso.

We are from a life rife with genitals
and come here with a seltzer sound.

We feed oxygen to our lungs and shriek,
our bodies covered with fine slime.

We see Courbet lurking in the shadows,
painting organs with his oil pastels.

We feel nakedness against light,
against the drizzly meaning of our life.

19 August 2019

I meant to close the window, a poem by Virginia Smith Rice

Where are those terror
ful nights we suffered
as children? Look in
boxes under the eaves,
unless attics have also
fallen away, like child-
tiny rooms crowded
with headlights that
slip over walls, square-
split by branches and
sirens. I can tell you
how it was, so yes, god
needs me (I will fast
asleep, packed into this
narrow world) but is it
enough? I ask him
for sight and he gives
me his. I ask for teeth
and he brings them
all. I am rich with small
sharp, stones sprouting
along, shoulders, arms,
seaming each finger. I
ask him to come near,
come nearer, for a glass
of water, the rest of his
breath. I ask for all one
can give to another,
a click in another's dark.

This poem was originally published by Storm Cellar Quarterly and is in the chapbook Whose House, Whose Playroom by Virginia Smith Rice.

Virginia Smith Rice

18 August 2019

What I thought (after Spender), by Rethabile Masilo

—for my daughter, Lineo

I thought there was going to be
gleaming, as when the firefly
of some forest has, all around it,
a halo of body—sharp poems
to rewrite blood on the mood
of people whose impulse
is to strip dark matter—I thought
we might start near dawn
near a town gawping at us—people
looking over shoulders to see
inside your manger,
repeating amens that made you
arrive..., fuming from clay still—
I thought, once they had finished
slapping your foot soles,
we’d carry you home, your key
in our hand to open the door.
What I could not have realised
was how we would enter and be,
despite the din of the world.
This I could not have foreseen.

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