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"Making a film," a poem by Rethabile Masilo

Making a film

The moment mother comes in with the rest of the children

we huddle at the centre of the room

and wait for another shooting,

but it refuses to materialise, even if it is late

and the village is asleep. Maybe we’re already dead.

There is pain in this, such as how a parent

says it hurts them more to thrash a child

and straighten the life in them; like mud

that has slid down the body of a mountain after a storm

and now waits at the delta below—calm

as a child who has finished crying.

When Mbera walks in, carrying our nephew in his arms,

a dozen lights shoot from eyes that seek to connect,

until morning reaches its kaleidoscope

of daily thoughts. Like a spirit, a searchlight

follows our father the way it did the night he fled,

angry bullets pursuing him. He moves

closer to his wife and they vanish into air, even

as our small group strives to understand.

There’s no sound in the room, or outside, no tangent feeling,

but just at that moment a reaching for the other.

Nothing to diminish the moment.

There will never be need for a trailer or a spoiler

for our film, made the night after those men came;

its credit crawl shows the names of everyone

present on that day it began,

in our house at the foot of a hill in Qoaling, where we lived.

And died. And were unable to convince our ghosts

to agree to leave the new inhabitants alone.


Rethabile Masilo is a Mosotho poet who lives in France. He has published four books of poetry and edited two anthologies. Masilo has participated in several international poetry festivals and is preparing a volume of new and selected poems for mid-2021.

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