The sky is heavy with rain.
She touches heads of hundreds with her hand
and walks among them, the bones
in her sack in agreement with the clan;
she touches the swollen parts of every back,
face, foot sole, then walks
toward the rondavel where she keeps
medicines her father left in phials,
the muti of a thousand memories,
and roots she digs herself when dew
has softened the earth enough, and true power
in the flesh of plants is ripening.
With a pestle she pounds root tips in a cup
and mixes them with red sap from a phial
off the shelf. Tomorrow she will touch
heads of thousands with a red, healing stain
on the tips of her fingers. And she will tell
her ancestors to send down the rain.
"Sangoma" is from Qoaling by Rethabile Masilo
(Onslaught Press, 2018).
For more Rethabile, visit