Kingdom of rain II
I still dream of one day seeing,
sniffing at the ground not far from me,
softly grunting, a grizzly bear;
or sat down pulling at a vine of berries
or a sapling, oblivious to me or not caring,
or, even, knowing that I’m there
but with no malevolence,
with nothing more than wanting to stare
and wonder at it just being bear
and hope it will let me in –
not hunter, nor prey –
somewhere in a North American jungle
with god knows what else around us
but still just me, the trees, the bear.
Or sitting by a river, on watch with a bald eagle
guarding over time as time turns into dream,
the sound only of water over stones
like a chuckle dim and soothing
from a favourite uncle now gone
whom you try too late to love back
and the memory of him fading,
remorse too, trickling away
like some river where I dream
on watch with an eagle
which with a screech wakes itself
and me, and maybe the bear is gone
and the eagle flaps away
and time returns, the insoluble matrix.
Or maybe somewhere in a forest in India,
crawling by some small, slow river
to lie on the bank and watch
how with a muted plash surprising for its size,
a lone tiger breaks the algae on the water
and swims to the other side.
That I’d like to see, and see it rise
with its wet fur onto the far bank,
turn once, its whiskers dripping,
to look at me here outside of history, in dream
as in the idyll of this poem,
and then slip away, gone through the green reeds.
Many animals I dream of seeing.
The coelacanth which swims as if it walks.
A mustang fast and dark against a swathe of green.
Some rare bird whose name I still must learn.
A fox, a hedgehog, the astonished ratel.
Watch them from up close
or hold them in my hand, like once
a baby octopus at Blombos
in a two-second spell and it was off.
I would want them to know I mean no harm
but seek only these moments from their lives
so I may sometimes become no more human.
I’ll tell them tell the gecko too, and the salamander.
Most of all I dream of the sun on a rock
by the Molenaars up in Du Toit’s Kloof
and on the other side
by some small, still curve of the river
where from up a deep ravine forever in shade
a clear trickle runs in cold through fern and fynbos
where in a damp patch next to dark green moss
my father years ago may have pointed at a paw print.
I dream of lying in the sun there and watching
for that rare leopard to come and drink;
to see its paws settle on a stone,
to see its shy head lowered between rising shoulders,
to see the whole mechanics of leopard
in its easy possession of what belongs to it
and all would be that leopard and me,
the lap-lap of its tongue,
the soothing, chuckling water.
And it may stop and raise its head,
twitch its ears and squint,
then return to drink,
taking me in as if I belong,
knowing that it’s only me, it,
the water, the sun this idyll and the unseen;
that this is only dream
and that I seek no deeper meaning,
no encounter by which to turn this verse
into a dispatch from some other kingdom
or the failed settlements of philosophy.
Yet, I want to let that leopard know
that it is part of me
and I am part of it
in all the ways that that could mean.
Poem from Groundwork, Kwelabooks/Snailpress, 2012.
See also Kingdom of Rain, from This Carting Life, Kwela/Snailpress, 2012.