Column 08

One of the best things that poetry can do is make us aware of the extraordinary contained with the ordinary. That’s what Rethabile Masilo does in this poem about a simple act. It’s from his collection Qoaling, published by The Onslaught Press.

Planting Trees

During the rains we would watch our father
dig holes to plant fruit trees. Every time
he leaned over the spade, and the back of his body
and shoulders broadened, we’d smile
from behind the window and place bets
on how many times he could plunge his spade
into the soft clay, lift it, and fling the sod over his back.
When he stopped, straightened up to wipe rain from his eyes,
we cheered, and scampered to the stove
to boil water for tea, for he, our father, drank rooibos
like soil drinks rain, his giraffe arms
around its watering hole, unperturbed by eyes,
drinking, the way roots pull good molecules
into themselves and grow deeper seeking more,
in a simple act of putting sustenance
into the body. That was my father
after undertaking what to him was sacred;
my father who deified every act of giving life,
as plants turn sunlight into time. And even the rains
knew it, and descended when he put gumboots on
and threw a plastic coat over himself to make,
from the rib of clay, a breathing plant, till he died.


Used with kind permission of Rethabile Masilo and The Onslaught Press.