April 22, 2011

21 Days/ 21 Poems: Elegy

When you get there, the horses of dawn
before you, the furious wheels of drawn carts,
each distance hard-won with sweated salt,
the road flat between miles, tense; only hoof
and sound of wheel loud above the air,
proof that this is not just another dream,
who can say what's best to do for our calm?
You sit like sculpted ivory among jaded colours,
something in the face you wear, hung like a mask
on walls of inner rooms, something in the sound
whose echo names you, the morning of which
rose out of the gold of you, flaring nostrils
at the world. How can we say who is to blame?
Halfway into destiny, the sun lost all hope,
shone into itself across the great Smokies.
A slow descent home. The accurate death
of the first words ever spoken: let there be light.
What do we know about the meanings
of things that work against that kind of light?

“Janice’s Poem” by Rethabile Masilo

Elegies work on two levels. They mourn the death of the loved one and extend the memory of the beloved beyond physical death.

In “Janice’s Poem,” Rethabile Masilo uses the imagery of a horse drawn hearse as a metaphor not only for the physical journey of a funereal procession, but also for the beloved’s life. The word choice with the short vowels and hard consonants, “each distance hard-won with sweated salt” add tension to the chiaroscuro descriptions of the liminal space and give the impression of a speaker who is displaying the utmost fortitude in the face of profound loss.

But then, in a remarkable turn that begins with ‘Halfway into destiny, the sun lost all hope,” the speaker shifts from the personal with an allusion to Genesis 1: 3: “Let there be light,” and brings the reader within the circle of compassion that the poem so ably evokes.

About Rethabile Masilo

Rethabile co-edits Canopic Jar (http://canopicjar.com) and says he carries a manuscript around in his back pocket. He teaches English, but says he also privately teaches Sesotho in an effort to get people to learn the language. He's the father of two and enjoys playing soccer, reading and writing, and cooking. He lives with his family in Paris, France. You can visit his Africa-inspired blog at:http://poefrika.blogspot.com


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