24 May 2020

The trip, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

We met at a bar downtown, one night during an eclipse, she in
A red dress out of an Addonizio poem and me in work fatigues
I used to wear when I worked at the factory, where we were making
Face masks at the speed president Trump had wanted, once the toll
Had already climbed to almost a hundred thousand souls, each
Needing a small space to be buried on, so many cadavers that time
Had lost count; and because we’re so many, like termites in an anthill,
We die as fast when a killer enters the closed and barracked homes
Of our bodies, whose doors have been thrown open and left to neglect.
She wanted to go west and, jobless, I took her up on it. Along the way
Whisky told me to rub my hand on her thigh, and I obliged. She told me
To stop. I said, ‘What the fuck!’ And that is when she smacked me.
No matter my ample regrets we didn’t speak for the rest of the trip,
But drove in silence until Route 66 began to feel like Route 666.
At the motel where we stopped, somewhere between Cuervo
And Santa Rosa, she marched toward her room—for she had booked
Separate rooms—her silk dress inching up the small of her back as
She strutted. I watched her type in the door code and go in, then
Went to the bar for a drink, unloaded the two suitcases, took hers
To her room next to mine. She ignored my knocking. A ceiling fan
Whirred round a rusted cogwheel; I slowly pushed the door open,
And found her naked on the bed, watching TV, the exposed space
Between her legs looking as attractive as a wet market in Wuhan.

During a poetry workshop
at The Hub in Morija

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