3 May 2018

Commandments, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

     —for my brother, Khotsofalang

Memory lifts its veil, everybody calls you,
but no appearance. Once again I recall
walking nights with you, touching walls
toward a light of home’s distance
lit for those still outside, till that night
became another day. I remember ten
childhood commandments, how absent
loves have to be watered and fed with half
the force of touch and light and tongue,
and half with a winter of wild surmise.
Today still the quiet night brings images
of walking toward that hill of home,
using darkness as a guide there. Then
one morning you were gone, on one day
that took you away, your stature, the quiet
non-form of your build—for all was you—
none of us knew what was coming despite
what you embody today. What we had not
realised was that there was no ram tied
to our Abraham shrub. Thou shalt not awake
after dying, thou shalt be willing to refuse
refuge in the arms of their Lord. You left
Lesotho the year of your eighteen years
and we closed our eyes. Grass grew a beard
on you, and thou shalt ‘get up, stand up’
rang the air. These are not on any tablet
but on the skin of our hearts. Because thou
shalt not hate nor rape thy neighbour, and
thou shalt aid people, thou shalt worship
other Gods beside me. These many years
afterward you remain needed. Because thou
shalt never leave loved ones in the lurch.

Letter to country, 2016
Canopic Publishing

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