23 May 2020

The mendicant, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

At mid-street kneels the one we flow around,
who parts us like a sarsen boulder in a river.
We will never know where she comes from,
and not because she doesn’t speak our language
but because we have forgotten how to speak hers.
She talks with her body and her arms, stretched
outward, her frame bent in midstream. I have known
women like that, who confront every morning
every day to reach the deafened ears of the river,
the non-seeing eyes of its flood, even as her rock
accidents unsuspecting boats. I have known souls
which can dance in the backrooms of a heart
like blood welling in a swollen ventricle, enough
to scribble a poem in a careless sky. What I have
never known is some outcome, where the hard face
loosens to a smile, thawing the heart. Though I'm not
ready to die, I hear around tall skyscrapers the call
of a death bird in my ears, trilling a melody so
woeful from the building tops that I have no choice
but to swim on down High street. And gather
speed alongside other motorboats in the flow.

During a poetry workshop
at The Hub in Morija

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