11 June 2020

Jigsaw years, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

By light of lamp we study the pieces, cut prints strewn
on the floor of our room. We want to unite them the way
we pine for the chance to bring the edges of the world together.
But until we find the right blend, they won’t look like you and I
on a mattress of summer leaves, oblivious to the world
though mindful of its best. The night I found you in heat
with your eyes as open as spy-holes, out of fear, we said
let’s present our lives to the future; then found there are always
battles to fight, even as we realised we still needed to know
how to glue the pieces together; dark ones and less dark ones
and others with different wounds. So I became Central Park.
Trisha is hurt. Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam and Antron McCray
and Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana are here, in me,
hanging about the way teenage kids do. I am their haunts.
You become Bryant's Grocery & Meat Market where Emmett
has just been. The sun beats the head of the South's goat drum
till we are Selma on Bloody Sunday, and our final portrait is set
for the future, after we have spent time tweaking sequences,
black/white, yellow/black/white, black/white/yellow, mixtures
in different affluent communities and mixtures in the hood.
So we put the pieces back in their box one by one—we put Jack
back in, once he’s terrified kids, the same as this puzzle we now
dismantle and send straight back to God, to just after creation
when joy was high and we walked naked in the yard, marvelling
at light playing on the landscape of Eden. The picture of this
is not Eden, nor summer leaves when we were young; it is fiends
who scare little girls to death in a church in Alabama: Addie
Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol McNair.
We watch the names of the dead file in procession like ants
into the mouth of their kingdom, where Watts sits in a cavity
of memories. People wait outside holding fate in their hands;
but some head south, where it all began, back to the borders
of this nation where water touches the land, and the picture
on the cover to reproduce is a millions-piece jigsaw puzzle.

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