2 August 2018

Preparing the body, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

—for my uncle, Nthaha

He is dead; in Oort, the gods know.
As the news leaves press rooms
eels, from the bottom of the Aegean,
ribbon to the surface to wave goodbye;
we smear his body with Zambuk
and wash the rotted parts with milk,
parts that are known as the devil’s cut.
His wife washes between the legs
then returns later to put the legs straight
again, before the thigh muscles stiffen.
This is why a man must die before his wife.
At the edge of the open grave I pretend
to be a man, and proceed to find a stone
I spit on, then throw into the hole.
This is how a man accompanies relatives
on the journey out of life. People look
around with downcast faces, longing
for a different chemistry of sleep.

10—15 Oct 2016
20th Poetry Africa Festival

"A select group of poets from South Africa and around the world will gather together for a week showcasing the face of present day spoken word and storytelling at the 20th Poetry Africa Festival. Hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, Poetry Africa provides a space for intercultural exchange and dialogue by hosting an extensive community outreach programme with poetry readings, performances and workshops in community centres, campuses and also participate in a programme of visits to schools across Durban to share ideas about poetry."

This was the first poem (from "Letter to Country") I read on that festival's opening night.

Japan and me in 1990, my 1st time
home after a decade in exile

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