Surf-Spirits

by Cornelia Rohde

My footprints follow me
along the gleaming margin
of the water’s edge,
where stick-legged Sanderlings,
grey-backed, snowy-bosomed,
play tireless tag with the sea.
When I walk close, these small birds
spook ahead to flirt with ocean’s rhythm.
I watch their sprightly spirits
chase the wake of waves
sucked back to bare wet sand.
Staccato bills gobble crabs and worms
stirred in dragging grains.                 .
 
I’m baffled how they know
just when to turn and run
before incoming scroll of water
buoys them off their feet;
and how, tuned to avian signal,
they rise as one, wheel
across blue depths and vanish,
leaving cross-stitches of their tracks
in patterns on the shoreline,
where the abiding tide sweeps away
all traces of their marks and mine,
joining us to the sea without intent.
 

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Mornings at Marloth

by Elaine Edwards

Francolins mutter in the silvery light,
but only when the robin sings do we arise
to carry out our daily pas de deaux.
I make the toast, Paul the tea;
he packs the bird book and binoculars,
I the cream, caps and camera.

When the sun begins to tint the trees we leave
conducted down the lane by an oriole’s tremolo.
Impala skitter off the path and melt into the bush;
a grey hornbill glides above, his piping cry contrasting
to the green-spotted dove’s soft murmur.

Too early for crocodiles at the dam
but we pause to look at terrapin clinging to the shore
their chins upturned to catch the sun’s first morning rays,
and in the pearly light the swallows are skimming, skimming, skimming.

Around the corner into Jackal Lane: blue waxbills pipe,
go-away birds and starlings quarrel in the huge maroela tree,
and a lone mongoose slips through the grass towards his burrow.
A cluster of giraffe is further down the road
but we must hurry, hurry to the river.

Quick – cut through the bushveld here,
avoid cisticolas and warblers stirring in the scrub,
skirt the thorns; ignore the blackjacks and the ticks,
don’t turn your ankle in the warthog’s hole,
or tramp upon a snake complacent in the rising heat.

Ahead of us the water sits like mercury.

All is still.

Then a hippo snorts, and another, and another
and the mousebirds come flying from the bushes
and the white-fronted bee eater swoops and twirls
and the green pigeons hurl themselves into the air
and two purple-crested louries open up their scarlet wings and whoop
and caw and scramble up the pitted trunk of the spreading knobthorn tree.

And in amongst this concert, as if the divas have arrived,
two fish eagles on the further bank throw back their heads
and flute their passionate duet.