High in the Malutis

P1020623i/

High in the Malutis

I see clinging crops on

craggy mountain contours

surrounding thatched huts

and wonder,

whose homes are they?

ii/

I see the young boy not yet ten

plastic bottles

and gumboots singing

at dusk

dispatched to

fetch well-water

for the night and family

as have his brothers fetched

for years before.

iii/

I see a blanket-wrapped man

his dark brow still

darkened at dawn

driving six oxen already

carting rocks

that will one day become

his wall, his home, his kraal

his all.

iv/

I see the bustling women walking, bright

patterned dresses swinging

umbrellas holding off

the sun and later, the

coming storm

on their way home

and ask myself,

where are they going and

will they get there in time

and for what?

v/

I see the distant shepherd

herding scattered flocks on

well-worn paths

whip cracking

dust spraying

and wonder how

he keeps his eye

on so many

and against what

does he have to watch

that they may safely graze?

vi/

I see two shy toddlers

teetering near their hut

naked but

for unbuttoned jerseys

holed and old and

as dusty as

the gnarled tree

under which their wire-carts

lie waiting for them

to ride away

one day.

vii/

I see the tough teenage boys

sticks in hand

drifting to the village

keen dark eyes watching

through grey balaclavas

pulled down

as hard as they

believe they are when

prowling shabby shabeens

where one night

they’ll fight

to show they’re

becoming men.

viii/

I see the weary grandmother

sitting outside her door, her

thread-bare blanket a

garment of service of

years of toil

etched in each clear line of

her face, the story of

how, with her own hands, her

husband gone, she

raised each child and brick to

build their lives and house

all three rooms proud,

and I’m overwhelmed by

her power.

ix/

I see an elder approaching,

white-bearded and bent,

the retired catechist, I’m told,

his wide-rimmed hat

pulled low, his

well-trod gate

now slow

after years of blessings

and walking and talking and teaching

a faith he still holds dear,

and, as we pass,

his hands held open and up,

he reverently greets

“Dumela N’tate”,

and I too,

am blessed.

x/

This, and so much more,

everyone everything so real

in the Malutis I get it, I feel;

And wonder as I see

another life another deal,

who would I be?

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About chrisahrends

For me, writing is a healing art aimed at healing me - and if in any way it resonates with you - that would be wonderful. I live in Cape Town, South Africa; work in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and am married to Jacqui Macqueen Ahrends.
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