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 will be rock
to tell us of the peace of silence. O, there is
magic in desiring peace (and obtaining it),
as there is with love-making; the magic
of dressing up, and then down, not using toys
and wildly kissing with the tongue.
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 rock
saying good luck at daunting me next time, saying...
come, I want to tell you all about my country,
our kingdom.
It started with the magnet
used by our foreparents to pull us out of rotting days—
in secret they put it here—touches his heart
under our name, like bodies in a churchyard.
Bushels and bushels of blood-red apples
waiting to be stuffed into the open mouth of earth.
We have come to accept that this country
is a tomb. But here, take this piece of me
to know why there is a presence in silence
as in snow; take me now. I am the tip of some iceberg
covetous of time, those frivolous diamond years
whose voice was heard sideways, never here
where earth's rock breathes in a child
inside the liquid of a mountain womb.
your ear against it to hear life never to be born,
a bellyful of it. The spade holders know the torrent
is a river not a mountain, a river with a tail like an eel.
And they smile, raise their tools and praise Koeeoko,
the river snake that swirls in the deepest whirlpools
and makes bodies eddy with it into their final mud.
We have no prophets because our last one 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 born, perhaps now that the man
Maaparankoe is gone the child of an unborn child
will come with it. Another vein will be cut.
But even if it happens, nobody knows for sure
if we can ever find another comfort there.

—from a current manuscript called Mbera

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