Cape Town


by Rethabile Masilo



- for Rustum Kozain


A seal at the beach sniffs tins,

lifts them with his snout. & ever

this Manenberg jazz

behind each gesture,

rising & falling to waves the sea makes,

from here to a clothesline near the sky's end;

across the sun a flock of birds moves

like shirts hung out to dry.

But, here, moves this seal

drawn from tin to tin by the smell of sardines.

He brays at a passing child

& claps his hands to shoo her away

before moving on, his snout touching the blue

surface like a metal detector seeking treasure.

No females have come this way lately

to give birth, or in these shallow parts

to mate, where the Indian & Atlantic oceans meet,

here against rock blanched by fungus

that comes when the water warms up—

his shadow searches each hole

for shells still with flesh in them,

which, once exposed, disappears down his gullet

in a gasp. Magic time when that happens,

or when small fish are trapped as water withdraws

to meet its origin toward the ends of the earth.

Night falls fast, & the seal moves from the beach

to a group of rocks, disappears into the night

as Tshona from a docked iPod begins to play.

But tonight, like the baby bull glistening with kelp,

I go my way—& not even Abdullah Ibrahim

could hold me back today.