18 May 2018

One child (for Motlatsi), a poem by Joyce Ellen Davis

The beauty of a child can become lost
In the beauty of all those children.
—Tj Pfau

This is the story of Motlatsi
In another Africa, perhaps in an alternate universe.
Lives a beautiful dark child
With skin like smooth chocolate.
Each morning he rises from his bed
And eats the mealie pap his grandmother
Prepares as she does every day.
Today is like all the other days. She stirs,
The corn meal in the pot goes around,
And bubbles and thickens. Afterward,
His grandmother takes his small soft hand
In her large hand, and together they scatter
Corn to the chickens in the yard.

This is the story of Motlatsi.
In another Africa, perhaps in an alternate
Universe, lives this beautiful dark child
With skin like smooth chocolate.
He chases the chickens in the yard on his
Tricycle. The bell on the trike sings
A warning: I am coming! Watch out!
I come! A pin-tailed Whydah
cries from the broad leaves
And green thorns of the Kahretsana.
This is another part of the story

Of Motlatsi, in another Africa, in
An alternate universe, perhaps,
Where his grandmother sleeps in her
Wrinkled night dress. The window,
Moon-lit in the room where she sleeps
Shows her dusty shoes placed neatly
Side by side. In his bed, Motlatsi dreams
Of the little bird that flies from the kharetsana’s
Broad leaves and green thorns.
No bells sing a warning, no angels sing
A lullaby. A bullet shatters the glass, and
The sound of it interrupts Motlatsi’s dream
Sending the dream-bird to sudden flight into
Eternal darkess. He did not hear the crack
Of the bullet that took his dream.

This is the story of Motlatsi. In another Africa,
In an alternate universe, this beautiful child
Will rise to eat his grandmother’s mealie pap.
In this Africa, in this universe the broad leavesP
And green thorns must be used to wash one’s hands
After a burial. In this universe, Death is not
Embarrassed, Death is not ashamed
To take a sleeping baby.

His grandmother’s porridge remains uneaten.
His tricycle rusts in the yard

Joyce Ellen Davis

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