10 May 2018

A peace of silence, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

People come with spades to the gathering,
often another chapter in the life of someone;
anything which gazes east-west is a rock
to tell us of the peace of silence. There’s much
magic in desiring peace (and obtaining it),
as much as there is with love-making, the magic
of dressing up, and dressing down, using toys
or just kissing with the wild tongue or both.
Even against poverty a head rears up, even
against the promise of a broken life; it stands
like a stretched arm holding a 10-pound stone
saying good luck at daunting me next time; saying...
come, I want to tell you about my little country,
our kingdom. It started with the magnet
used by our fore-parents to pull us out of rotting days
which in secret they put here—touches his heart
under our name, like corpses in a churchyard
beneath the centuries-old soil of our people.
Bushels and bushels of blood-splashed bodies
waiting to be stuffed into the waiting earth:
you will just have to accept that this country
is a tomb. But come, take this piece of me
to know why there is a presence of silence
in snow; why I am the tip of an iceberg
covetous of time, those frivolous old years
whose voices were heard sideways, never here
where earth's rock breathes like a child
inside the liquid of a mountain womb. Place
your ear against it to hear life ready to be born,
a bellyful of it. Spade holders know the torrent
is a river not a mountain, one with a tail like an eel.
And they smile, raise their tools and praise Koeeoko,
the river snake that swirls inside whirlpools
and makes bodies eddy with it into a last mud.
We have no prophets because our last is gone,
we never had problems with the dead—long live
the memory of stone in their blood, long live
their refusal to bend to your will. If happiness
will not be won, perhaps now that the man
Maaparankoe is gone the child of an unborn child
will be birthed with it. Another vein will be cut.
But even if it happens, nobody knows for sure
if we can ever find any sort of comfort there.

—from a current manuscript called Mbera

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