1 June 2018

Simon III, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

The circle is closing, and even though there are regrets
there will be no more love given for free upon the fields;
when Jesus died Simon had carried his cross
to the top of the hill, tamed its woody face, made it his,
the way he had learned as a young boy on the hills of Libya
where his father timed him carrying sackfuls of grains,
corn, wheat, rice, making him toss them onto his back
and ferry them all from one side of the village to another.
He knew the weight of those bags would put muscle
into the young heart of his son, like real chains later would
into black bodies, in the New World and beyond it,
whenever someone needed help and they took it by force.
Those boys had grown up near the north of the continent
where the desert meets the sea, even as in the south it seeks
the touch of greenness with which life is made. Who knows
if those two had once crossed paths, Simon from Cyrene,
and Jesus Christ the Son of Man, a Nazarene from Palestine
in exile in neighbouring Egypt? Who knows what made
the Romans force the Libyan to carry God’s cross? They say
when it was time he took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves,
heaved that cross onto his shoulder, before marching
up the killing hill, with Jesus stumbling behind him. Today,
in Atlantic graves, skulls sit open-mouthed still, their pleas
weights of the names of their captors. And a vision of us
that says we are earth’s unhappiest, most beautiful things.

—from a current manuscript called Mbera



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