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.