Para todos los gatos negros

by Rethabile Masilo

It has not been known for inns to bury their dead,
even when death occurs inside the establishment;
in the morning, after having brought people in
by the wheel-barrow the night before, the owner
shoos them all away, takes back his music
and his drinks from them, and later accepts
no accountability for where they will be buried,
nor by whom. Even the seediest drum player
who slouches over his instrument will be killed,
with not even God filled with any remorse at all,
and only the furniture and walls left standing.
Dark drapes hang like capes from the ceiling.
The origin of this is so unknown no one, master
who serves lyrics in large portions, or listener
who fills the floor each night, knows why or how
words choose one another when the music love
begins, within the sound of the voice of a poet—
but they do, every line comes with its grain of life.
Last night died before we had given in, though
I still wish I had confessed how poets here sound
like ideas that light bulbs above people’s heads,
that fire human lives; I have not picked out whom
to yield to, behind my bottle, of a night of jazz
which floats in my head. Above the crypt, as poems
fly below, a buzz is perceived moving up there
with the sound of a thousand zippers yielding
at once. Words drip from pen and from mouth
like dew from the tips of blades of life, saints
are present here, in the crypt of a rue Jean-Pierre
Timbaud café, poking wounds with zeal to keep
them from healing, each the flat-paper mapper
of a life unknown till then, each charting a world,
the same way giving birth turns old life into new.

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