Mourning flowers by Rethabile Masilo

Rethabile Masilo | July 22nd, 2020 | poetry | No Comments


Flowers are not for the living, at least not their entire blossom;
a bunch of bloodshot or milky or inky petals in a fond hand,
for example lilies or other flowers that prefer to grow on surfaces
of ponds in a park; or those drawn by a child in charcoal or chalk,
coloured in by each and every day you look at them; flowers—
invisible except to the one who holds them in a forgiving hand—

are for the dead, who can no longer produce the effect of flowers,
like when morning opens up to songs of light, and everything
goes to hell: the heartrate surpassing ninety, hairs stirred, the cave
of the mouth desiccated like the mountain behind us every time
a drought drinks its wells and leaves its flesh parched. Flowers
for the departed. The dead, decaying in the ground, and the lost,
rotting in the mind, both doing their best to provide everything
that feeds and nurtures the sense of what it is to become a flower.

Poet Bio

BIO: Rethabile Masilo is a Mosotho poet who has lived in France for more than 30 years. He
left his country, Lesotho, as a refugee in 1981, eventually ending up in the USA where
he continued his biology studies. He moved to France in 1987 and has lived there ever since, effecting as many visits to Lesotho as possible.

He has published four books of poetry as well as two poetry anthologies that he was editor of. In 2014 his poem ‘Swimming’, from his second book Waslap won the Dalro First Prize in poetry, as well as the Thomas Pringle Award for Poetry in South African periodicals a year later. The poem had first appeared in the magazine New Coin, Vol. 49 Number 1, in June 2013.

In 2016 the same collection of poems, Waslap, published by The Onslaught Press a year earlier, was awarded The Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. That same year in October he was invited to participate in the 20th Poetry Africa Festival in Durban, where he also represented The World Poetry Movement; and in June 2019 he was part of The International Poetry Festival of Medellin in Colombia, to whose 30th anniversary festival in 2020 he has been invited.

Masilo’s books are ‘Things that are silent’ (Pindrop Press, 2012), ‘Waslap’ (The Onslaught Press, 2015), ‘Letter to country’ (Canopic Publishing, 2016), and ‘Qoaling’ (The Onslaught Press, 2018). He blogs at Poéfrika ( and co-edits Canopic Jar
( with the writer Phil Rice. He is currently writing poems toward a fifth volume dedicated to his brother, who lost his life at the hands of the then Lesotho government in the late 1970s.

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