26 February 2020

Groundwork X, a poem by Rustum Kozain

You sleep well, dreaming of sea gulls
and lost love. The tundra you’d walk.
Or desert, the world, rock, scrub,
rock, scrub. Dawn, the bright sun.

And the woman who stumbles to the cliff-edge
where last no one saw her husband
taken by the night sea, rod and tackle
all taken by the sea somewhere, somewhere.
[continue there...]

Rustum Kozain

25 February 2020

Eating watermelon, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

The darkness of our father means light,
overwhelming with welcome; he colours
morning, evening and night with negritude.
When our eyes meet we break clear out
from fear, like prey at flight's end, when
the path stops and there's no more of it,
and turn around to face our hopes again.
It is like a defibrillation then: the use
of a carefully controlled electric shock.
We become alive and we hear our footsteps
on this land where bodies hang from limbs,
screaming silently with the tongue of eyes
like lambs. There is little solace here
so we have come to be with them,
to surround them with the picket fences
of our teeth—bright-white spikes in a slice
of watermelon, the moon this crystal ball
with no visible wings. We have come here
to claim our name. Some say that prisoners
will be freed, that weddings will last three
entire days again, and the milking of cows
will begin before any sun can come up.
So who thinks they can quash, at the end
of the day, the inner workings of hope?

I read this poem on 24 February 2020 at Spoken Word Paris, where I hadn't been for the longest time.

23 February 2020

To my mother, a poem by Alain Mabanckou

I have lodged my flagpole at the heart of this territory
Here I am, far from my people
Now learning to dance on one foot
And disremember my bipedal custom
The red earth of my home
Hasn't left my soles since the last migration
Slumber resides beneath my eyelids
But I sleep with only one eye
With only one ear
I married the fate of the leaf
When I detach myself from the tree and fly with the wind
I always fall back at the foot of the tree
And even though I've been swept away by a river current
In each of my dreams
This name returns
Two syllables
I am now unable to resist
When pain beckons me to the hours where sleeplessness
Haunts the eyelid
I find the shadows of our village in the night
And my heart beats to the rhythm of a herd
Fearful of an impending tornado
Left to water the arid soil of return
These spilling torrential tears
Are the bed of my grief
When I return from my pilgrimage
The door of the house will be shut
A few sheep will graze the last grass of the neighbourhood
I'll head to the cemetery
And see the grave all by itself
By the tree that gave birth to my first poems
That's where she lies, my mother
And that is where I have been living for a long time.

This poem was read in New York, on the occasion of Pen American

Translated from the original French by Rethabile Masilo

Alain Mabanckou

22 February 2020

Khotsofalang could sure play morabaraba, by Rethabile Masilo

Of all the boys on that rock
with their oil-polished stones,
above our old house in Qoaling,
taunting each other’s manhood
like a bear must taunt an eagle,
he was the best, always a move
ahead in front of the rest.
—Suna nku ena!
—E mamina ntate!
Later in life we found out that
even he couldn’t have controlled
the way winter would define
our future in its plain, twisted fate,
how it would remain on our roof
burying everyone into that house
with the weight of its monument.
I am not able to quit that house,
which our father built. I am
a chisel-marked stone block
within winter, one among many,
and the scars you see on me
are dialogues of my lineage.
Our house’s hinges hold hands
with the door frames, hold them
fast, like rigid teeth clenched,
which keeps our feelings secret
in a room of sheltered purpose,
even as we recite the underside
of the eye of a moon, and sit
like prisoners, silent, in the hands
of time, whose body is the world.

Khotsofalang is the short-panted one
to the left of mom. The other
shorted-panted one is me.

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