23 August 2015

Feeding the ground

Out of a boundless kitchen in which I grew up
There’s no sound now, but that of intervening years,
A muted hum of men digging, lifting picks
Over their backs and striking, and before morning
A hole is ready in the ground, its mouth gaping
Like a hatchling’s waiting for food, as if the cemetery
Were a nest with little mouths to feed, the grim reaper
A parent to those mouths. In my mother's kitchen
Where I learned to sing, the diggers' muffled song
Comes through, hmmm ha home… hmmm ha home,
And again, and again, the beak of the picks falls.
I once asked my mother why only men dig the ground
At night, and she said “because men make children
Go.” And she turned around and with a lesokoana
Dug into the papa she was stirring. “We feed them.”
Sometimes she’d start a song, or tell a fable. Now,
When I hear the sound coming from the floor,
Or from the graveyard on the left when you go
To Loretto, I think of the night shift, and of men
Who work it to make sure that the ground is fed.

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