Mennonite Poetry Home | Leonard Neufeldt



The Procession in Soweto

Mouse-brown face hollowing out cheekbones
and eyes raw as a craving for fullness, a scarecrow
emptiness of sleeves beside you in the shade
of the eucalyptus as marchers grow larger,
both of you forward to see what’s coming:
banners riding a long procession through heat waves,
the marchers singing in four-part harmony.
A raised fist out of her sleeve,
the moment sudden as her vanishing
into the alley’s dust and double turn behind you
as the lead singers pass, as you are held in place
by what you do not understand

A stirring-up you would have believed in
if only you had been ready,
the narrative gone at its unfolding, lost,
not like what can’t be remembered
but something unaccounted for
like a camera cocked without film

You’ve memorized the melody re-sung even after
the last singer passed and followed the others
into the far-down lot beyond the church,
their makeshift conclusion spreading out.
You still don’t know why the marchers came,
why the woman in rags showed her fist and fled

The urgency close as the guide
in the endless slum’s chemical air
who spoke softly about government monies
always somehow taking their leave,
how day and night eat their own.
Your photograph of the guide shows him
sitting with you at the cafeteria table




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