30 January 2017

On reading ‘Elegy for Ferguson’, by Rethabile Masilo

It is a poem robed in a coat of many
types, dark-dyed never to stain, its life
in the hands of both warp and weft.
When I read it again I saw how hands
should be raised only in victory. And,
washed in that vision, all of my hands
suddenly fell, unhigh and not open
to misinterpretation. I will raise them
to hold the poem’s placard to the world
in towns up and down this country,
hold it the same way parents hold
newborns to the moon after birth,
and name them, hold it like garlic
inside a haunted house, read from it
in dark corners of my life, summon it,
as one does troops into action, its lore
like the mountains, with a sun sinking
behind our backs, marching into battle.
Because of your eyes of adversity,
your fire-power, the cold steelness
of your execution, you couldn’t have
inherited the gold of Ghana, leader
of our free world, the elephant power
that Takrur made meek even as slaves
were being captured toward Ferguson,
Kingston, San Miguel, you couldn’t have
inherited it, because inside the very halls
of your government today are women
and men who make noise like the hulls
of trading boats emptied of our souls.

Note: ‘Elegy for Ferguson’ is a poem by Geoffrey Philp that appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Vol. 20, N°2, Summer/Fall 2015.

Rethabile Masilo

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