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.

19 November 2014

The room of books

Every face carries the strife it confesses, and people
wear these like masks to hide the inside of their colour.
You'll see them sometimes, when the dolour of life
is heavy and unbearable, turn away into the confines
of another street. Some wear theirs against the weather,
like a hat, or a rubber coat, or a pair of old gumboots.
I wear mine like the sun to burn the things that make me,
the tough sinew of my resolve, this hide that has taken me
half to where the bulk of me has always wanted to go.
My grandmother used to say a face has failed that has
no baggage under its eyes, to show to others things
that come with age to feed the choices of the sage,
which are what we rely on. These things fashion you
and turn you into the mission your parents had in mind
for you, before you were born. I remember when she came
to live with us, and my father told us to ask her anything
we could think of, because she was a library. She wore
her face loosely, like a true Basotho dress, and swanked
down the road and up again for all to see what a life lived
looks like in reality. Her posture matched the way
she always felt, about us, and about the way her own son
had gone. If every smile carries in it the knowledge
of a new world, every sigh knows the solution to part
of what that world is being consumed by. When she died,
a room of rare books and their contents went with her.

16 November 2014

Wherever I will be

When I am sick and dying, gripped by death’s hand
and dreading the colour of each day and each night,
a road will open up to take me away,
and I will be happy on it, content that something
as bleak as itself was concerned for my relief,
happy as at birth into a mother's waiting hands.
There can be no fear of hell on my part,
for no man dreads unicorns and dragons,
it is my children who hold the hell of my heart;
and so after the ceremonies, when the women
have retired to go prepare the meals, and men
in song are filling up the grave, wherever I will be
at that time, I shall burn for them. I drink the soup
I am given because there is nothing to yearn for;
gone are the days of wonder when I walked
up and down my city with hope in every step;
spring lived in my limbs then, and green
was the colour of each thought, many of which
I harbour still, but which have now turned dour.
I’ll keep the memory of time on earth with you,
for the eternity I face, following this last hour.