13 March 2018

Easy Skanking

all saturday evenings
should be like this, caressing
your thigh while reading neruda
with his odes to matilde's arms,
breasts, hair--everything about her
that made him
a part of this bountiful earth--
lilies, onions, avocados--that fed
his poetry the way
rain washes the dumb cane with desire
or banyans break through asphalt--
this is the nirvana that the buddha
with his bald monks and tiresome sutras
never knew or else he'd never have left
his palace and longing bride--
the supple feel of your leg in my hands
for which i'd spin the wheel of karma
a thousand lifetimes, more

Geoffrey Philp

26 February 2018

"Everyone dies", by Rethabile Masilo

We climb a path to where the spirits of love
live, spirits of life and of fire; we feel them hear
our approach; in an imaginary house nearby
a presence ducks behind a curtain, dark-faced,
as if this place weren’t the only hope for miles
with a fierce scent of musk the body makes
during foreplay, and throughout the act of smell,
and the time afterward when lovers lie side by side
and find each other with the wet, pink muscles
of flesh in their mouths, doing it with no script
before the cigarettes even, through the short time
it takes to love each other and through fire,
throughout the years when men who survive
death on the battlefield put their lives on fingers
of women / The house’s walls flourish with light
at our approach. A bird takes a bath in a gutter
beneath the awning. At a signal from the sky
flowers stand straight, raise their heads, unfold
their arms. It has been a long wait for this season;
the cottage smiles, lets us in: the only people
in the world, since everyone dies whenever
we do this, and that’s how it is. We start to remove
each other’s clothes button by button until
we stand at the centre of the room, neonates
and completely naked to the idea of what is
to come till, at last, it is our own moment to.

--from a manuscript tentatively called "Mbera"

At the Chat Noir café in Paris

23 February 2018

"Qoaling", a book of poems by Rethabile Masilo

I'd like those likely to attend readings I'll do in Lesotho to know that I have few books with me. Failed delivery. Please pass the word, and this link to my Amazon page, should anyone want to get a book and have me sign it.

I would also like to take this opportunity to officially announce (and this will be done in Maseru as well, live) the publication of my fourth book of poems, "Qoaling". It was published on 17 February 2018, which is my mother's birthday, by the Oxford-based The Onslaught Press. Needless to say, I'm quite excited as I ponder future readings in Europe as well as on the African continent.

During this trip I will unfortunately not be able to stopover in Johannesburg. I know quite a few people there who are itching to kill me as they read this. Next time I will have to stop in Jozi for sure, and stay there for a few days. In Lesotho I look forward to reading at Rockview and in Morija (The Hub). I still don't know the dates yet. Voila.

Reading in Durban in 2016
My most recent book


One day while we were playing
Khotsofalang left, and no matter how much we prayed
he was killed and reincarnated as a tree;
we would like to know if that’s what he wanted to be.

They made a casket with his pith,
because one of Lesotho’s big businesses is making coffins.
Some wonder why we don’t just make doors with loss, instead,
using planks and slats from the bodies of the dead.

Still others say books, by beating cadavers to a pulp, like pulled
pork, flattening the remains in the sun for them to dry, till
they finally come of age
and accept a dirge on each and every page.

--from Qoaling, The Onslaught Press, 2018

14 January 2018

The sh*thole chronicle

President Donald J. Trump
"If those countries weren't 'sh*tholes', why do their people want to come here (meaning the United States)?" Don’t you hear that a lot?

Would the fact of Wikipedia asserting that “in 2016, the U.S. State Department estimated that there are 9 million U.S. citizens living abroad” turn the United States into a sh*thole? Apparently not; so we must look elsewhere for why other countries under equivalent circumstances are labelled as such.

The English-language French newspaper The Local [thelocal.fr] says: “The number of French expats rose by 2 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year, making a total increase of 4.14 percent in two years. There [sic] total number of French nationals registered abroad has reached 1.7 million, according to France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.

It continues: “However, while the figures reflect the growing tendency to move abroad, they don't tell the full story. For a start, the 1.7 million is lower than the real number of French [nationals] abroad, estimated to be around 2.5 million, as it only includes those registered with foreign consulates.”

I’ve been living in France for a little more than thirty years, and no one has called or is calling France a sh*thole. Outside of my own country of origin, Lesotho, it is the country I would probably choose to live in and defend, above all others. Yet its people sometimes give in to the urge to move elsewhere, like people from countries considered sh*tholes by President Donald Trump and a majority of his followers. And we mustn’t forget that this journey began with the following question, posed by those same people: "If those countries weren't 'sh*tholes', why do their people want to come here (meaning the United States)?"

Here’s something interesting, as well: every time it is about Occidental populations moving elsewhere, they’re dubbed “expats”, or “expatriates”, and I’m of course talking about Europids or people of European origin. Whereas when it’s the rest of us who are darker, for everyday purposes, no matter where we come from or where we go, we are dubbed either “immigrants” or “the [place country adjective here] diaspora”, for example, the Jamaican Diaspora.

One of my future projects is to edit an anthology of poems (my third). I have already started collecting poems for it (pssst, pass the word! Or send me your poems!). The tentative title is ‘Contemporary Poems from Africa (and the diaspora)’; perhaps I should opt for “expatriates” instead of “diaspora”?
Toward the end of the noughties Greece became the focus of Europe’s debt crunch following the Wall Street crash of 2008 (caused by the subprime debacle). With global money markets still dazed, Greece announced a year later that it had been minimising its deficit figures for years, which immediately raised red flags about the trustworthiness of Greek finances.

Greece couldn’t borrow anymore, and come 2010, the country was staring bankruptcy in the face. The following account is what The Guardian (theguardian.com) says took place afterwards. It is based on an interviewee by the name of Zertalis, who ‘says there’s been a “massive exodus” from Greece, and many members of his own family have moved to London in recent months. “We’ve got doctors, lawyers, [and] educated people out of work. They’re looking for a better life. You’ve got to feed the children. In Greece, there’s no jobs (sic) or real prospects of a good future, so the brightest and best of Greece are leaving.’

Neighbouring European countries took these people in, the UK, France, Italy, but some crossed the pond and ended up in the USA and Canada. And it wasn’t the first time Greece was seeing its population leave to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Zertalis says that in spite of it all Greece was unfairly being used as a scapegoat, because Italy and Spain were more or less in the same boat. Nevertheless, the vitriol used against refugees or immigrants or expatriates from majority-Negroid countries is not used against refugees or immigrants or expatriates from majority-Europid countries. The Occident likes to claim all that is Greek as its heritage so much that perhaps that’s one of the reasons. The Parthenon and the Acropolis as a whole and Agamemnon and the philosophers and Athenian democracy and Grecian urns, etc., are treasures the West cherishes. Why would they trash Greece, the cradle of all that they hold dear, even if it finds itself in the same boat as Haiti, but without the earthquakes and the hurricanes?

I have seen instances where despairingly racist people have tried to make an argument that defends the proposal that The Pyramids in Egypt couldn’t have been built by black Africans—nor could the turrets and walls of Greater Zimbabwe. And this despite the fact that Sudan had and still has twice as many pyramids as Egypt (if you want blackness, you’ll find it in Sudan. Trust me). So why couldn’t black Africans have built the Egyptian pyramids?

As a matter of fact, between 760 BC and 656 BC the nerve-centre and capital of the 25th Egyptian Dynasty was Meroe in Sudan, because Nubian kings (from black Africa) had conquered Egypt. Are those despairingly racist people I mentioned earlier just taking their thoughts further because they already imagine that dark-skinned people are incapable of achieving things, or do they really believe what they’re saying? Why does no one doubt that Hellenes built the Parthenon? That the Romans built the Coliseum? Is it the same reason that makes us ‘sh*tholes’ but not the Greeks, for example?

In June 1976 when I was fifteen and in high school in Lesotho (which is completely surrounded by South Africa), South Africa exploded: black kids refused to accept Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools, in lieu of English, and took to the streets. I mean… what else? Their education was already restricted and designed for future manual work, serving the white minority, and now this. Many were killed, and many fled to Lesotho and elsewhere. Countries around The Republic of South Africa formed an alliance called The Frontline States, and we took in those kids and sent them to school locally and abroad. South Africa sometimes foraged into those frontline countries and killed its own refugees, often with equal numbers of citizens of those countries (https://goo.gl/FoMy1B). But we stood firm and did not insult the refugees, many of whom became permanent residents.

South Africa is and was a rich country. Why? Well, one of the main reasons is that it was run by people of European origin. Just kidding; and if you had swallowed that, you should be ashamed of yourself. One of the main reasons is because the country has a wide range of mineral resources and of precious stones. There is gold and diamonds and there is iron ore, manganese, copper, platinum, chromium, uranium, silver, beryllium and titanium and, mind you, the Apartheid regime wasn’t sharing any of the spoils from that treasure with the original inhabitants of that land. Do you see a pattern here?

Almost exactly the same thing happened on the American continent: south and north. Who went into the mines? Who picked the cotton? Who tilled the land? Whose sisters, mothers and daughters were systematically raped? Who did just about all of the donkey’s work? People stolen from other countries and brought by force to do that kind of work for free. In South Africa there was an added advantage for the white, ruling minority: they didn’t have to bring the cheap labour from anywhere! Think of it! Need another proof of the pattern? In South Africa in 1976 black kids revolted because an inferior educational system had been set up for them, one that would guarantee their white rulers that black Africans would remain a few rungs below for a long time to come. In the USA slaves were punished for teaching themselves to read and write.

The French applied the same methods in Haiti, and black Haitians fought back for 23 years until the French had been defeated and Haiti was a free nation with rights for everyone. Wikipedia says that “the ending of French rule and the abolition of slavery in the former colony by the former slaves was followed by their successful defence of the freedoms they won, and, with the collaboration of mulattoes, their independence from rule by white Europeans. It represents the largest slave uprising since Spartacus's unsuccessful revolt against the Roman Republic nearly 1 900 years before. It challenged long-held beliefs about black inferiority and about enslaved persons' capacity to achieve and maintain their own freedom. The rebels' organizational capacity and tenacity under pressure became the source of stories that shocked and frightened slave owners”. Let’s not go into US involvement in El Salvador, for example, one of the sh*tholes designated by name by President Trump; suffice it to just say: The Massacre at El Mozote.

In the ‘80s when President Ronald Reagan was elected, the USA became an active supporter of the apartheid apparatus in South Africa, and was hence against the vast majority of that country’s original peoples. President Reagan’s policy toward apartheid was called Constructive Engagement, which just meant the US would impose no economic sanctions on SA but would encourage change in apartheid through a discreet dialogue with that country’s white minority leaders. An article written in 1985 says that “US companies have been operating in South Africa since the turn of the century -- far longer than the apartheid system has even existed. Apartheid as such was instituted in South Africa after World War II and was modelled on the US Jim Crow system. When Jim Crow was the legal system here, US corporations were as discriminatory as ever and paid poverty wages to those blacks which they did hire. Jim Crow, as a legally sanctioned system of segregation, was later abolished in the United States, not as a result of US corporations setting a good example, but as a result of popular movements.” (https://goo.gl/QC6RCd)

South Africa finally took off the shackles of apartheid in 1994 and no longer resorted to blatantly using slave labour. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela became its first universally elected president. Haiti became independent in 1804 and Jean-Jacques Dessalines was its first ruler under the 1805 constitution. Independent Haiti did not enslave white people to work back-breaking jobs for it for pity salaries. El Salvador got rid of Spanish rule in 1821, enslaving neither Spaniards nor anybody else. Nigeria became independent in 1960 without doing you-know-what. Lesotho became independent in 1966 without doing you-know-what, and so on, ad nauseum.

One of the most brutal culprits of slavery and colonialism and destroying a people is Belgium. Please read up on King Leopold II (https://goo.gl/kW2CBZ). And oh, before I forget, another nasty one was King Herod: “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13). Jesus Christ, the ultimate star of President Trump’s base, fled his home and became a refugee or an immigrant (not an expat, for Christ wasn’t of European origin) in Africa. According to the logic used by President Trump and his fans, Jesus Christ’s home was a sh*thole.

Having said that, the idea of calling another country a sh*thole is reprehensible, which is why it was Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day (https://goo.gl/6kpCXd). It is reprehensible and racist as I've tried to show, and it is stupid, as well. It doesn't befit the office that Mr Trump is currently holding. It is nasty and vile and incomprehensible. I sympathise with the people who did not elect this man.
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