1870 c/o Peter Raynard

At the dawn of the Scramble the King of Lesotho
lies dead. I am in the presence of his lineage,
drinking too quickly in a single bulb Shebeen
in Pretoria. The resistance brewed here less
than ten years from where I sit, is still seen
in the faces of men, served by Shebeen Queens.
You spell my name with two shoes – Moshoeshoe,
he jokes, but there is a razor at the throat of history
when pronouncing it: Moshwayshway, the sound
made by the King, as he shaved the beards
of his enemies in death, conquering raids;
the silver swish of victory. The King lost
his seeds to Dutch & British bullets ‘civilising’
the continent, leaving but a tenth that Africans
could call their own by the Great War’s end.
He takes me to Soweto, to a small home. I feel
whiter than Rhodes, but he insists. Tea is served
then quietly on leaving, money is given to our host.
It is the township’s permanence that strikes,
development is elastic, a contested mistake.
The land is said to be theirs now, but not the fruits
of their seed. Soweto and Lesotho are dry islands;
Kings & Queens remain - they are drowning with thirst.