29 November 2014

À mes frères

This is memory with a little dried blood on it,
a thought from children whose brains we know
are indelible. My brothers have carried that memory
for more than thirty years, now, like a woman
carries the scar of a beating. They saw
a human brain for the first time at a young age,
scattered on bedclothes like custard during
some glad event, and even the trees outside,
whose wind that night had thrown hay
against the corners of parapets, had looked away.
The neighbours stopped staying in, with morning,
and started coming out, alerted by screams
from that house on whose hill we had lived.
These two just happened to be the first to stumble in.
But they're men now, my brothers, people
with families, homes outside Maseru, accounts
at a local bank, and children who brush their teeth
after dinner, pray for well-being during sleep,
and jam chairs against all the bedroom doors.

28 November 2014

The hovering boy

I have asked my siblings to help me
shift the furniture against the walls
into an arena, to make more room,
her madonna heart is within that room,
but there is not only her in there, sitting
with that long smile. An angel flies in
on one wing; now there's a mockery
of life, for there is no uncertainty
in the way we acknowledge a loss.
She knows the truth behind the world,
the surprises it peddles in darkness.
In my own room I put my belongings together,
for I must be on my way in order to be back.
She's in there, now, while night touches itself,
its fingers slow and lingering. She waits
until her boy comes in and floats to her
in that pernicious room, on the morning
of which she'll pick her things and pack,
in order to come back another day,
and wait for night that starts to arrive
when she leaves, and the boy flies away.

26 November 2014

The horses

Those people did come in bakkies, four
perhaps, out of the west. When one of the men
came over, and touched our manes
with his hand, our mother rippled.
We had been taught to never neigh.
When one fine day a neighbour beat us
for eating his best beets and lettuces,
even then we only bit our lips and let air
ruffle our hair in his face while he struck.
But these men here spoke a language
we didn’t know. Father stood on his hind legs
and bared his teeth at them. And even
at that dark hour, with the stars watching,
mother walked over to our youngest, swished
flies off his face with her tail, then spun around
to face those men once again. No one neighed.
Not even when the shooting began.

23 November 2014

Going through my father’s things

The documents my father left rustle inside the drawers
of his study, seeking importance. I’ve come home
from Europe to help my mother sort this once and for all,
newspaper cuttings, one of which I sent to a Cape Town poet
who would know what thought made my father keep it,
after we had classified everything; leaflets scattered
in drawers, and letters, letters of pleas to the world
to give his children scholarships, deep love letters
when he was courting my mother, before they left Morija
and went to Maseru. She says when she called me for help
these had started rattling the desk like a poltergeist,
and once, she recollects, she could smell smoke
coming from the room. Some of the papers were dusty.
But when we were done with that room it was tidy,
my father’s thoughts in files along several shelves,
like the books he was going to write. Overwhelming,
to sit here among his things, and pull a writing pad
forward, and find you have absolutely nothing to say
to the world. I pick the copy of a Reformed Church
Nicene Creed he once copied in longhand, and framed,
and remain in that dark room, searching for meaning.