9 November 2018

Talking drum, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

—for Morabo Morojele

You may think it odd and may even wonder,
and perchance give a moment up
to ponder goats
and why they die to donate skin
we use to coat drums with;

drums have no god
to look up to (or to be looked down on by),
instead they have sound
pounded to a rhythm
that goads us on to dance;

plus this man who beats them,
his hands faster than Karajan’s.

Sap from grass that feeds goats
is now in the breath of people
who stretch that gift of skin

over mouths of stumps
so dialogue from years ago
conducted in the shade of some tree
may be spoken through it again;

this tempers the underlying grief
that leads one from a cage.

Because as soon as he has played
you know, by yourself (with no prompt
from anyone), that the stump around which
a symphonic membrane is stretch’d
owns a gullet, a larynx and, behind everything,
a voice whose resolve thrums freedom.

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