Mountain at Night
(for Lineo, ‘Masekoja and ‘Makananelo)
Everyone needs something. A dime a day. After
Swallowing me my mother needed to empty me,
And among tracks left by ancestral feet she had me.
Thaba Bosiu, the mountain at night. We needed
Its plateau at the top to help us crush enemy skulls
Into chalk, with stone and brick, for the king had
Built his village there, and that mountain grew at night,
Making passes steep to keep foes out, locking the door.
The thing is, when my cradle rocked the clay floor
Of my mother’s hut, nobody was allowed near if I
wasn’t asleep. Oh, I don’t know, but my parents I think
Held their breath when approaching me, and put
Their ears against the lilac of my mouth to hear
The whirr of my lungs, till I heaved and let go of it,
And shivered down as they traipsed into their room
To get on with what parents do on a winter’s night,
Relieved that life could be a product of their genes too.
They needed to feel each other down like teens
Groping in the dark: I remember, or think I do,
The best of my parents heaving in that room,
Setting each other off. When I was older I met
A girl who, like my mother, couldn’t stomach lumps;
We’d lie there, fucking, or asleep, clinging like spoons.
Three spoons if you counted the child whose life
At the turn of the millennium when gods gave gifts,
Was about to enter itself, on top of me, and my wife.