Out on dry savannah where the plains
Roll all the way toward distant horizon,
A young Zulu boy learns his lessons—
Never sees great elephant as “game”.
Soon he will grow tall enough to see,
Old enough to grasp the Natal spear.
At this age he’s not been taught to place
Price tag on the tusks but learns from dreams
An Earth populated by tribes and herds,
Fields where clouds roll around watching mountains,
Thundering and trumpeting herds of elephants run….
He learns the rhythms of his dance from watching,
Through soles of feet and joyous leaps.
Horizon of the day is never empty….
Not here where truth and death
Arrive from bullets or saw blades of the grass.
If only we could learn the wisdom gathered
In parched wrinkles, thick hide of beasts, yellow eyes at night.
He knows to listen for rage of rogue males
When one is born in matriarchal times,
Pushed out or lost, separated,
Always hunting for flowing water, rivers muddied….
Too young, he learns to avoid poachers if he sees the signs
Where they step in ignorance of time.
There is danger of death that hangs as silently as mamba
Within one failed lesson, one false step….
If he falls asleep without searching tree for signs.
But how does he read the wordless wind today?
Monkeys swing among trees
As barefoot boy wonders what it means
To be really wild— living out on tips of limbs,
Howling when leopard comes to feast.
He’s seen his name written in the bowl of salt,
Heard elders tell stories with reaching hands,
Heard beating drums and watched sway of
Sagging breasts of grandmothers
When no longer there is milk to give.
He pauses— has no recourse but to ponder,
Trapped in this moment of keen wonder,
His world, our world, a place of such magnificence
Slowly dying, passing before eyes as fast
As antelope who long to live. He sees the bleeding Sun
Besieged by dark clouds that yield no rain today.
Earth remains parched. Even vision of the inner eye
Cannot see beyond this tearful holding space.