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).