15 October 2019

A poem is a toddler, by Rethabile Masilo

on a bed, unable to do anything, let alone surpass or surprise.
You are the one who will make that probable—who wakes
in the middle of the night to shuffle around with the child
in your arms—who calms it, makes a certain kind of peace
occupy its head. And sometimes you turn babble
into meaning to benefit the world, then dress your poem
with matching socks and blouse, when you take it out;
or purposely clothe it in unmatched, clanging colours
to shock passers-by on the street, folks used to reading
only signs of rude sound bites. But how you enjoy that!

Then it gets sick and you have, in a pram at the park, a baby
bawling for you do not know what—still you persist
and identify its ailment, which you spray with something,
feed it cough syrup or, depending on the symptoms, sift
through a thousand remedies until you find the proper one
which you administer to the poem till it relaxes,
and opens its mouth to swallow your labour in a yawn.

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