Rethabile Masilo
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Poem for an inauguration 

13 January 2017

Seven days make a week, then it is inauguration.
The land is stretched skin-thin over a drum of history.
The Cherokee have revived the ardour of fires
to send smoke signals to the world, a world
that has never picked up their language of distress,
the sign language of burning flame. People blame
the one whose job has been to put out all blazes
and help kittens down from trees where they put
themselves, unravel the yarn they are entangled in,
they fault him the way children in a tantrum hate
their parents and wish them dead. The blacks
of this drum-stretched country walk the streets
beating from its skin the tone of Douglass, the gays
shout the true name of themselves with the voice
of when days came and went and closets held passion
like ore in a melting pot, the Mexicans read street-names
in Spanish on the way to work and know what they mean
to families of silent faces of men and women, the Muslims
send out calls for prayer, reaching above some presence
at the very height of a minaret. No one seems to know
what it all means, as the country listens to none of it
and decides to play its miniature, single-chord guitar
made of wood from the last tree of desolate sound.

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Rethabile Masilo is the award-winning author of three poetry collections: Letter to Country (Canopic, 2016), Things That Are Silent (Pindrop Press, 20012) and  Waslap (The Onslaught Press, 2015).