Borderlands

by Liz Trew

Limpopo rises, swollen in flood
loosens her braids
brushes her sides
shimmers at dawn
trembles at night
her river of blood
binding land to water, water to land.

Tafadzwa crawls through the barbed wire
to cross the river
fears crocodiles in the water
fears the terrible guma-guma’s
fears being raped again
fears guards at the border
fears being turned away,
still she keeps coming
still the sound of hope keeps coming.

*

I look down on a confluence of borders
walking through time and its people
beside a farmer opening his gate
between swathes of grass
and bones of rhino left in the sun.

I cross abandoned settlements, silent footpaths –
travellers comingling with salt, spices, seeds,
knives of stone, needles of bone,
arrows of iron, beads, china and shells
all packed into dark bands of earth
where a small elephant drawn on rock
with a porcupine quill
is passed down to me and the man at his gate,
down to his wife in the house and his leaping dog Moon,
to Joyce braiding her sister’s hair in their hut,
Lucas boiling pap, to the quarry of salt,
down to the village school, silos of grain
and the warm smell of paper and ink
in the industrial floor of the town
as the old buckeyed berg sweeps aside our boundaries
on the way to her continent.

*

 

Noria moulds magic with clay to make animals and people.
Behind a headman and woman at the village gate
the heads of elders are seats and drums,
succulents burst from women’s navels and breasts,
a youth plays the drum to a girl in her bath.

Giraffe totems guard village doors,
lions and bushpigs lounge along walls,
a princely python ripples on grass,
a stony-eyed crocodile basks on rock:
see the girl near the crocodile clap hands to her ears,
hear her shriek as he takes her into his jaws.

*

 

Fundudzi is a fertile lake, a pregnant womb,
a head, a pot, an egg, a drum.
She feeds Mutale’s stream from her deeps.

A python went round her shore
while inside the lake a crocodile ruled.
He swam in his pool rattling stones in his mouth
rising to watch the python dance.

Fundudzi still keeps Mutale’s stream
in her womb, her pot, her egg, her drum
but the crocodile king has left his place

swishing away with the python princess,
leaves his legend inside the lake,
his crocodile eyes on burial doors.

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