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The Waslap of my father by Rethabile Masilo

Rethabile Masilo | Jan 13th, 2021 | poetry | No Comments

Poem

In my palm sits my father’s waslap*,
as I knew it would one day
each time I saw him scrub himself
with it in the zinc tub beside our hut,
darkening the water with his mood.
I wash myself with that waslap,
wishing he were here to watch me,
all growed up and whistling in the cold
morning of winter. I gather it again
and squeeze the water out of it
the same way he always did, with might,
because it is that, too, remembrance,
nothing but a conquest of will
that has made me the keeper
of my father’s dreams, his pants
and best cotton shirt that fit me,
the hat he bought in Bloemfontein
when there for work once, a belt.
All fit and I wear them to parties
to impress my friends. The day
my father lay here in state on his back,
shocked at what the world had done,
I wet the waslap and dabbed his brow,
before scrubbing him well from
sternum and chest down to the legs.
My father who said he was off somewhere
and we should let him—
I wonder, is he watching me now
as I wring this out and put it on my head
to dry, like a kippah, O cloth
of memory; all his clothes go
on me like a charm, except his shoes
which are too big for me to wear.

*Washcloth

Poet Bio

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