17 October 2019

Simon, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

We arrived after dark, the place already full,
and looked for spaces to pitch our tents;
then sat down and contemplated the stars,
pointing out those we knew by name that are
to children a familiar connect-the-dots
at the playground; we drew them completely
to how they appeared to our eyes, tracing lines
with our fingers in the air—before meeting
the man Jesus. I cannot recall whether
later we played shax, but the night was rife
and a fire flung sparks into the darkness above.
He was near, praying in the park somewhere:
one could tell, you could almost smell him.
And perhaps we played shax but who
can remember such a thing? No one
was going to escape the moment, taken from
scrolls and tablets with tombstone faces,
and brought before us like a sacrificial lamb.
He was kneeling near the silence of the grove
and we knew his sun was going to rise on Judea,
a kingdom spread from here to the sea, knew
prayer would stop when cries of pilgrims
came from afar as they realised what was
about to pass, and the time was right
for the carpenter to bring out his cross,
chiselled, smoothed over with a plane, oiled,
and women had mixed salt-water with herbs
for the bathing of feet. The black man Simon
was just setting off for the synagogue, biltong
and dried fruit in a pouch at his waist, along
a road where hordes lined the sides, waiting
with boards of shax folded under their arms.

Morabaraba / Shax

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