21 March 2020

Sharpeville, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

Somehow, between the requirements of summer
and winter, we went forth holding above our heads
souls that death comes in, like Moses scurrying
down the mountain with tablets scratched
with scripture; like a lamp finding the damp dark
of mines our fathers walked, in search of food.
We raised them and held them like a sacrifice
to specific gods, trophies of a triumphant day,
and kept them, self-evident, lifted above the world
with purpose. Our souls, glowing like headlights
in a storm as if they knew what hardship meant.
In our hands they were the day's newborn child:
behold, we cried, lifting them with hands calloused
from scraping, as we approached the charge office,
behold, the only thing greater than thyself! It was
breath held in anticipation, though some were candles
that lit our way to freedom, others hammers
and others scythes, nailing planks in and reaping
the fat crop. And others going to their graves
alone, though their heads scream in the night still.

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