Sharpeville

Somehow, between the requirements of summer
and winter, we went forth holding above our heads
souls that death comes in, like Moses scurrying
down the mountain side with tablets scratched
with scripture; like a lamp blinding the damp dark
of mines our fathers walked in search of food.
We raised them and held them like sacrifices
to specific gods, trophies of a triumphant day,
and kept them, self-evident, lifted above the world
with a purpose. Our souls, glowing like headlights
at a storm as if they knew what hardship meant.
In our hands they were the day’s newborn child:
behold, we cried, lifting them with hands callous
from scraping, as we approached the charge office,
behold, the only thing greater than yourself! It was
breath held in anticipation, though some were candles
that lit our way to freedom, others hammers
and others scythes, nailing in planks and reaping
the full grass. And others going to their graves
alone, though their heads still scream in the night
like trees that were felled before their season.

© Rethabile Masilo