23 May 2020

A refusal, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

I have walked the roads of people’s lives, turning my head
Sideways sometimes to read the words of their asphalt,
Till the destinations were their deaths, and I had known them,
And inside the front covers of their doors were inscribed
Messages from the past which I was glad to have found,
Like when somebody kneeling on a rug finds the light.
With my tongue I tasted them. I remember when I was
A child, watching my parents fight over the good each
Sought for us. I have known the shape of people’s lives.
Like a vagabond I am able to see the face of someone
Who will not part with a coin for a hot meal or a bath.
I have walked into the eagle’s nest and back, gathered
The length of my walk, like at the end of a prayer where
You know kindness, and curse what you can no longer bring
Yourself to grieve about. I've been to heaven, grievances
On my back and in my mouth and mind. I can no longer
Bring myself to kill; not out of weakness, but because
I refuse to spill blood: to open and gut an animal for God.

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