Small Bird Singing in a Bush

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

Tatamkhulu Afrika
South African
1920 – 2002

 

Small bird in a bush:
cars in the street rush
past it like the Gadarene swine,
line upon line.

Soft feathers fluff
in a lean wind, rough
as a rasp in the leaves’ green,
brooming the earth clean.

Cognisant of none
save the strengthening sun,
the blood of its dawn
still red on the hill,

it sings and it sings,
repetitive rings
and showers of sound
seeming profound

to the shallows in me,
but, in reality,
only a bird’s things:
sex and seed, rain on the wings,

consciousness of warmth and light,
withdrawal of the night,
the wind’s suddenness,
or its silences.

All this I know,
and no less know
its innocence, my prescience,
and which the better sense,
and which the finer face,
and which the saving grace:
self-seeking orison
or this simple hymnal to the sun?

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