22 June 2020

Scalp, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

And when on the streets of somewhere you see skulls,
limitless with age, you’ll know how long this secret
has been sat upon. You’ll always know the meaning of it,
when you have heard the long thoughts howling outside.
And in the bowl of their scalps you will touch bulbs
of gold lilies with your fingertips, and of garlic and onions,
of other alliums known to life, then of Dutch hyacinths,
and tulips which once grew luxuriant upon their heads,
the way vines thicken with fruit, hanging from a wall.
To emulate death, men have been keeping a collection
of faceless stamps in a folder fat with womanhood.
But like a popped sore that ageless secret is now out.
Can you see where the spade went in, like a scalpel
after a lobotomy? Touch now the inside of the dish.
Can you read the braille, the shrapnel each of them has,
stories time-told with the sounding tongues of our world.
And, in the mirror, see the lip line, the clenched teeth
inside, to keep the soul from floating into the open.
Pour the love of mothers and remember, their gardens
can only yearn for you to live with truth inside you;
because when the air is right, and the time is ripe,
all of life is engraved at the centres of their wombs.

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