Rethabile Masilo was born in Lesotho and currently resides in Paris, France. His first contributions to Canopic Jar appeared in 1986 while he was attending Maryville College in the mountains of East Tennessee. He has been the co-editor and prime mover of the Jar since 2004, when he was enlisted to help bring the magazine into the 21st century. His book of poems, Things that Are Silent, was published by Pindrop Press in June 2012. Rethabile blogs at Poefrika.
by Rethabile Masilo
He takes one’s hand and covers it
with the leather of his, formed by tools
made before and used after the war
when rebuilding was the rave,
and returning soldiers needed where to stay.
Sent a square metre through the roof.
They were tools he had kept, as a leader,
even as he kept things in his heart
that he refused us, but broke stone with them
or shaved wood, always to create more space
for neighbour or for wife. One four a.m.
he led me up the mountain with wind
whipping the grass in the background, like
a bush prayer lit against the break of dawn,
thick clouds white as the beard of God,
who stills the mountain and looks after it,
hanging like sheep abdomens above us.
He chose that moment to break the silence
and speak, like Moses inside Mount Horeb,
to a presence in the smoke. My grandfather
had raised six kids from the ground up like weights,
and had kept them there. He dreaded no one.
Blank eyes looked at us, as he went on speaking
to the hills, and we stood halfway to heaven
holding hands like the last couple on earth,
breathing vapour in and exhaling it, feeding
from that empty space that freed its dead.
~for ntate-moholo Seetha