Poems by Rethabile Masilo

My sister’s boy

 

The day my sister’s boy was born
she poured honey and whiskey
into a pan, stirred warmed palm oil in,
mixed them with her hands several times,
then smeared it all over the boy’s body.
‘This is how I will love you’, she said,
as if to herself, her hands
rubbing his groin and buttocks.
He studied her awhile
and giggled, then stuck a thumb
into his pink mouth and sucked it
with his eyes closed.
‘It’s exactly how I will love you, baby’.
Someone ran outside and fixed
a white flag onto the roof to announce
the birth. Women came with pails
of home brew. Someone sacrificed a bull.
Still we had to wait and wait for rain
in order to place the infant out
and leave him there till he toughened,
enough to take the name the tribe would place
in him. He smelled the air and smiled.

 

My father’s killers

 

They take to the road at midnight, and turn
Toward land that by right we plough and turn.
Their dark convoy passes white-washed houses.
A brake light: the bakkies slow down, and turn.
They park at right angles to the street
To light the yard. It’s daddy’s day and turn.
They have come on a crisp September night
To blight us, make our season change and turn.
The moon shimmers its flashlight on a blade
While, from a height, the planets spin and turn.

 

The question of Mokema

 

Wild eggs of the ostrich lie about like skulls.
At night, when no one is looking, and Lesotho
pauses to yawn… rub its eyes with its fists,
the killer and his men put down their guns
to plan a new slaying. At the thought, hawks
flock out of trees and head to the kopjes
for safety. The only other cry is the groan
of water, above the one an old owl makes
with its questions: ‘who… who… who?’
But there’s no reply from inside the faces
of these men, though new fear grips our land.
How we shall miss you, our country. Leisure
is dead in your eyes. Nobody laughs anymore.

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