I saw you walk toward something

In tribute to Keorapetse Kgositsile

By Gabeba Baderoon


You taught us that a border was

a place of yielding or refusing to yield,

for after refusal might lie a new country.

And the line ran

through the land, the mind, the skin.

In all these, you eluded capture,

scaling fences that clawed at you, scored you,

left a welt that marked the No

and the crossing.

Afterward, touching it, you knew,

this is the boundary.


You made a life of such crossings, and poetry,

a poetry of soil and scar and what troubled both.

In your writing and the way you looked at people,

the way you saw down to their bones,

you wove a future before it existed,

and new musics in three continents,

every line inventing

and questioning its country.


And in freedom you drew poetry and music from others.

When we listened to you, we

who had stayed and we

who returned, did not divide ourselves

into our different losses but faced

the mutual hardness of making a country,

because you insisted on that hardness.


In the last days of a long year,

I saw you walk away,

slowly away, your eyes

and your right hand lifting a little,

as though toward some

strange welcome, as though toward

something you knew.

I did not run after you

in the present tense,

limpid and unreal.

Now I reach out my hands toward you.

Now we are alone in a new country,

a freedom we must write without you.


Your poems were the music of another future,

one you wrote as though

you had been there before.

I saw you walk toward something,

your eyes drawn to a place just ahead,

as though toward

a country you already knew.