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"My mother says she sees him," a poem by Rethabile Masilo

My mother says she sees him

She said, I see him outside

in that area beyond the house.

It must have been the yellow in her eyes.

She has had time since he left

to scrub them into clear marbles,

and allow saltwater to sanitise them.

When we were young, she used to see

into our childish dreams with them,

in the unforgiving dark.

He stands there bent at the waist,

refusing to crack or to break

as she describes his teeth, clenched

like a beast holds in its jaws

a wriggling body by the thew,

in the dim light beside the door.

She sees this with her marbles.

They couldn’t break him when

they hauled him off in cuffs, after

searching our house and bringing years

of its ceilings down. They wouldn’t

break him, later when they refused us

the body of his son they had killed.

He holds this in the mouth, between

his teeth, in memory of those days.

After the storm he came back, added

muscle onto his limbs, arms, legs,

the tree trunk of his neck.

Nothing inhuman or abstract

but an annual ring each year

added to his bark—built roots

the way icicles grow with each

new drop and creep into years

throughout harsh thoughts of life.

When the frozen months arrived

he dug into them; it made him live,

made him get back to hoeing the country of

his youth, a plot of Qoaling

where people, like sequoia trees,

tower over the roof of a forest and care for

its soul. That’s what my mother said.


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 2022. For more info please visit Poems Rethabile Likes (PRL).

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