19 November 2014

The room of books, poem by Rethabile Masilo

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.


Canopic Publishing
2016


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