An hour of hard driving,
we arrive in a
cough of red dust.
We have come to take
Christmas photos, a small
gesture for big-hearted workers.
Coy children peer from behind
adult legs, then disappear into the
day beneath giggles.
Ushered inside a mud brick
hut, the only light peeks through
low open doors and unsealed cracks.
A fool would surmise Christmas does
not live here; this house
devoid of trimmings.
Children return wrapped
in dusty suits
and faded satin.
As the family settles, there is no
mistaking, the flash of pride, as
we expose Christmas.
It is dry season. Clouds gather
in a promise of rain; the empty stomachs
of Boabab trees rumble, their arms crooked
with unanswered prayers.
Impala living on nervous tension
brave the flat plains of back-burnt
grass; eagles with front row seats
scoff at the sealing of fate.
Herds of zebra and buffalo cross off
the days before migration, they know
the lions are lying low and
naming their troops.
All morning, higher than
the heads of executioners,
the sun rose above bearded men,
the raw iron of their machines
and fell without an echo
at dusk on the shoulders
of a grim highway.
Tired bodies fold in, as the Chevy
engine screams in second gear.
The halogen glow of headlights
casts shadows over tree roots,
broken veins on paper thin skin.
On wooden crosses, on the surface
of wolf-toothed swamps, on the cold edge
of a starving child; black threatens, always.
What death hasn’t tainted, dust suffocates.
They remember nights on the soft graves
of children, brushing blades of grass
from their knees, how they could catch
a piece of sky if they weren’t so alarmed.
Terror tattooed in the eyes of their women;
long gone the gentle sway of hips
beneath cotton dresses; bodies tensed and
expectant only, to cradle shadows.
All is silent where the dead lie under their strict
burden of rememberance. Beyond the barb
wire fence, traffic roars and the country goes
about its business with its usual noise.
* a collaborative poem written with Graham Nunn
Standing on the crater’s rim,
morning draws back its
breath, my body chilled by
thinning air and rising anticipation.
Steep roads open the landscape,
exposing one mystery at
a time. Yet still, my eyes have no
knowledge or time to prepare.
Half way down, vultures
scrap and bicker over
bones stripped bare of
At the river, greedy Jackal’s tap
dance the dust, salivate
impatience, as a lion
takes her kill.
In the distance, wilderbeast and
zebra share breakfast; converse about
safety in numbers and having
eyes in the back of your head.