Rapture, by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, is dedicated to the protection of South Africa’s rhinos and is reproduced here in support of World Rhino Day.
Rapture by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers
We have to keep going as if there is a future, but it’s the end of the world,
the rapture, screaming bodies hurled to heaven. Wars everywhere and the middle
east burning: the smell of bodies lost to wonder, the callous mistake of statistics
sunburnt holes in the sky and the ritual murder of elephants and rhinos
almost industrialized, like our responses as automatic as breathing
as automatic as pressing a button as automatic as autopilot settings
as bodies kept alive by machines, and we are asked what we think
like/don’t like and there’s the debate and the edge of the world subsides
into flames of not caring. The world will end and we are nowhere near
the ones we love and the cold voice of the airport tells us to hurry to our boarding gate;
the ark is only half-built, the launch of the new strategy for the state is still waiting
for a coat of paint.
Here’s our life spread out in Eliot’s etherized surgery, facing Soyinka’s unwelcome guest
who won’t care about whether or not it’s convenient for you, will come calling when he likes
and when death comes for me I want to be busy making light. It won’t do to blame politicians for
power failures, I thank them as I write you, poem, into life.
Not dead yet, I’ve still got the whole night because I am not the one who was shot, banned or
almost beheaded, I am not the victim of some gruesome experiment with power, I simply
stand and stare at our world and write down what I see and even though it is misunderstood
at times, it stands.
The world ended just a moment ago
for another rhino lying in its lonely blood but that might not be on the news tomorrow.
Probably not. The news is hardly ever of sorrow but of egos mortally offended, naked
emperors and a child’s laugh as he paints the funfair of history. The electricity of connection
fails to resurrect our community, we’re in the dark here, so take this small hand,
this poem, this picture, spark stolen
from a power failure in Johannesburg:
may it light your way till you find your own.
First published in the 2013 anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World (Ed Harry Owen) and subsequently with audio in the anthology Let Me Tell You a Story, 2016.