21 May 2013

There is music, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

in an old man's hands, when sounds
together come to complete the caesura,
like an old photograph torn years ago
and now wanting its memory back,
like goat skins over the drum of Africa
trying to scar its destructible wound,
music yet to be born until then, born
the way he filled that bar with it,
a stream of altos that all of a sudden
entered the hall together, low-flying.
But what had that music to do with us
that required all this? For afterwards
his fingers flew, or seemed to fly,
surprising every key in its sleep
with his touch, a slight roughness
that was proof he was pressing
only the tips of those keys, like
removing a bad heart to keep it
from going worse, to avoid having
to give it spinach and pills, removing it
so it don't wither again like before.
His surgical music was prey fleeing
a predator, and it rose to the roof
of the smoky room in one despair.
At my table just then I saw it, saw it
as if it had been there all the while,
circling like a hunted heart with wings,
love dressed in a mauve cape, going
after the brokenhearted of the world,
cape flapping like a hurt wing, and
though the coloured girls giggling
in the back and swaying to the jazz
like they were having sex already
did not see it at all, and kept saying
with nameless tongues to the man
hunched over his piano on the stage,
to now play some of the rebel sounds
they'd started liking: kwaito music,
I knew I wasn't hallucinating despite
the whisky I’d already poured down
my throat, and this to me somehow
said that these same women, dressed
in killer jeans, always chain smoking,
wouldn't stop to love me, if I were
the last man in hell. This I knew. Still
I wanted to get the attention of the one
with peeking breasts and in Sesotho
try to chat her up into loving me.

First appeared in The Bastille N°3 — "Interesting Times"

The Onslaught Press

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