Waslap – Rethabile Masilo's New Book

Rethabile Masilo

If you haven’t read Rethabile Masilo’s poems yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.

He should be familiar to some of you, because I’ve featured him, along with some of his works. For those of you who aren’t acquainted with his wonderful way with words, feast on these three poems from his new book, Waslap.

24 hours

The hand of my mother holds nothing now, except
the past, this is what a child must accept. I touch the lumps
of her finger-joints and rub balm in, moving from one
to the next and feeding the spaces in there. I tell my father
I know he’s in the room. I tell him to stay with us forever.
My mother says she sees her son and grandson as well,
holding hands on account of having had to share a grave.
Today has been a day of miracles. ‘Mè drank her porridge
with the good hand and finished it, then read from her bible
a little, her eyes moistening where Jesus asks his father
why he has forsaken him so. But it is time for her nap,
so she sleeps, till I get back from town and turn the knob
on her TV set, adjust the volume, and leave to go pound
some meat to serve with lepu. She watches the evening news.
The days are usually the same. The doctor comes sometimes
for a quick check-up. ‘We are proud of her’, he likes to say,
as if we were supposed to harbour some kind of shame.

for my son, Thabo

What you seek
is not known to us
but to those who,
outnumbered by the living,
are asleep—
fragments of light
touch your eyes,
stirred by grace
to let the mind see.
And so you’re here
at last—we shall feast.
No one will sit
under the light
of the porch to read
tonight, or stare at the world
with tired eyes;
we will instead gather
around this crib, attracted
by its glow
of universal light.

The name

descended when you did so I would be able
to give it to you
with all the lives in you,
without knowing what poems your head
knows by name,
or namesake, or nickname,
above the rise at the churchyard
where I will utter your name.
You are the one on whose head that name
will hang, a name in which I am well pleased.
I know it won’t be the same
as what the locket on your neck contains,
far from eyes and dangling near the heart
beyond any number of doubts that are in this place.
Because in mystery it comes, you see,
one length of time that separates
and then nothing, a meal that arrives
with all the grains of its salt in place,
hours before the first light born to dawn.
Its sound gnaws me today, this
which will not be a word by which you are designated,
but instead the sweat of love placed in you,
and more: the joy of naming you.
One wants to say: this will hurt, beware—
yet it must be done: I must excavate you to find you.
It will not be like pulling a dove out of a hat
to please the yelping crowd, but only that
I must pull all of you out of yourself by the root,
extract you like a tooth, hold you like a lens up to the sky
in order that you may see why you have the right
to burn us with your name, and wear it against the cold.
You shall be summoned by toil as by love
to a place that is reserved for people like you
who still have only a name to their name,
and you shall stand and walk through doors
that resist before you, knowing that only we
believe in the power of your name. And that
my child, is perhaps the main everything.

A Review

Ferrying the “spoken world” on his shoulders, Rethabile Masilo explores his born home in Lesotho and his Paris home-in-exile, mining the joys and distresses of history, heroic parents, slaughtered family, finding comfort in nature and music as he unearths stone upon precious stone to build us poems, each “a dreadful thing… a thing past but also young at heart”. This is poetry unflinching, wrought with a bold, confident hand. Bravo Masilo! — Pamela Mordecai

Some poems from his first book, Things That Are Silent, can be read at the following sites:


Things That Are Silent can be purchased at the following sites:


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2 Comments on "Waslap – Rethabile Masilo's New Book"

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Thank you for introducing me to this fine poet and re-printing three of his poems, here. Definitely going to get myself a copy of Things That Are Silent. Have you read any of Kwame Dawes poetry? I was reminded of him because he is of Jamaican and Ghanaian heritage [if I am correct] and his poetry has a very distinct flavor and rhythm, and a “palpable” quality that Masilo shares.


You’re welcome, Leslie! Oh yes, I know of Mr. Dawes’ work. He’s a truly gifted writer, and yes, you are correct about his heritage.