Amahelo ho Spitskop

by Elaine Edwards

In this land of raid and counter–raid, of night-time thefts and day-time battles,
place names reflect the shifting borders: Thaba ‘Nchu, Ladybrand, Wepener,
Clocolan, Hobhouse.

Lavender clouds reflect in shallow pools alongside the road,
in sodden fields white blossoms of potato plants speckle and gleam,
quelea flocks sit huddled on fences
swarm silently as we approach.

The air is rich with smells of dung, compost, wet wet earth.

To the east Maloti Mountains, scarped shoulders ochre in the oyster light,
bare dragon teeth, Thabana Ntlenyana highest of them all.
Nearer is Thaba Bosiu, the Old Man’s bastion, inviolate,
growing in the night, shrinking in the day.

Under skies now mulberry, we hasten towards
Amahelo ho Spitskop – greetings to Spitskop,
rugged koppie guarding our chalet,
haven of coffee, rusks, hot baths, clean clothes.

Ahead, a wagtail skips and struts,
Jersey cows freckle a malachite meadow,
a lammergeyer etches a cross against the livid clouds.

As we reach our sheltering stoep,
the storm which has been promising to come
arrives.

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