What Could Not Be Untold



Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa (Photo: redcharlie on Unsplash)


“Is that where we’re going?” the boy pointed at the road snaking below. He squinted, hoping to see a car. They’ve walked long. He was tired.

“There,” his father’s finger angled higher, at the cliff. Beyond.

The boy scrunched his lips but kept quiet. Time with his ntate oa was precious. Also, at eight, he did not want to be seen as a baby who should’ve been left home with the women.

The father nodded approval. His son was growing to be obedient and mindful. It was good.

“What’s there?” the boy adjusted the Basotho blanket over his shoulder. He hadn’t beenΒ  happy to be told to bring it earlier, but was now that the sun hid.

“Rocks. Earth. Bones. Your ancestors’ homes.”

Khotso nodded. His father was a man of few words, and Khotso knew he was being trusted to understand the power of what could not be untold.




For What Pegman Saw: Free State, South Africa



21 thoughts on “What Could Not Be Untold

  1. A fine story, Na’ama. You make the characters and their history (and prehistory) very real. They are very solid in your landscape. It’s a wonderful depiction of how the boy is learning to become a man as that is understood in his culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful hints at the relationship between son and father, and at the cultural practices that have meaning to them. I especially like the concept of the power of what cannot be untold. I have seen more often the idea of the power of what cannot be told, but to imagine the next step — where once told there is no going back — takes it to another level.

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    • Thank you, Joy! I am glad that the concept of the power residing in the untold, was communicated. Words, once said, cannot be undone. Often times this is a reason to say them. Sometimes it is a reason to not. When it comes to history, the balance is often difficult to find, harder still to hold. Also, and perhaps especially for us writers, the power of the experience, sometimes sans words, can lead to stories that would otherwise be forced, in some way, into a different meaning that one might have if they let their own senses create theirs. And so it goes …

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      • What an excellent point, that the fact that something cannot be unsaid or unheard is sometimes more reason to say it and sometimes more reason not to. Knowing the difference is a type of wisdom I don’t think I can claim yet.

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      • πŸ™‚ Yeah, I think knowing our limits is a kind of wisdom, too. I mean, we have the comparison in those who are bombastic and seem to need everyone to believe that they are ‘tremendously’ perfect, when anyone with ears and even sort-of-working moral compass can hear the emptiness echoing in these persons’ heart and mind …
        Me? I’m a work in progress, and I still say a lot more than I should, and withhold some of what I shouldn’t. I hope that awareness will help balance out things better … πŸ˜‰

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