Where is my friend?

Songs of Travel

I asked the aged kudu
As it stood beneath the sand dunes
And looked down at ancient runes
Among the orange Namib sands.
The kudu looked down silent
With his shoulders stooped and sighing
And it tried to tell me something
But he’d lost her passing scent.

Then I asked the hurried beetle
As it scambled up its mountain
His – the only life encountered
On these ever shifting sands.
But the answer wasn’t easy
And the little one too busy
To acknowledge my entreaties
As the wind swept up her tracks.

Wen’ uyabalekah, wen’ uyabalekah
Ku lezontabah, my friend.
Wen’ uyabalekah, wen’ uyabalekah
Ku lezontabah, my friend.

And I asked the midnight leopard
Who had growled so near the water
When he came to cleanse his slaughter
And I washed up after mine.
And I knew that she had been here
And I sensed that he had seen her
But he melted with the darkness
And he gave me not a sign.

And as I lie in bed exhausted
Beneath the slowly falling stars
Nocturnal visitors start filing past
Who might have still remembered.
But the hunt’s consuming violence
And the feasting’s rustling silence
Tell me: I’d get no guidance
Until the night’s indulgence ended.

Wen’ uyabalekah, wen’ uyabalekah
Ku lezontabah, my friend.
Wen’ uyabalekah, wen’ uyabalekah
Ku lezontabah, my friend.

And in the early morning freshness
I asked the morning’s soaring buzzards
As they circled sun-drowned lizards
Pray, have you seen my friend?
They said: alas! the land has spoken
And the ancient rocks have woken
Her body lies here – broken
Among the Namib’s orange sands.

And in that early morning freshness
I tell the buzzards to stop flying
And the mourning doves to quiet.
I have seen where she had lain.
Her body had been broken
But her spirit’s not been spoken for
And will come to claim what’s owed to her
Above the brooding yellow plains.

Shosholozah, shosholozah
Ku lezontabah, my friend.
Shosholozah, shosholozah
Ku lezontabah, my friend.

– o –

Dedicated to Lucy Aliband.

The words in the chorus essentially mean “You are running away, to the mountains” and in the last chorus “Go forward, to the mountains”. (If you speak Xhosa and I haven’t got it quite right, please correct me!!).
They come from a traditional Southern African (Xhosa/Zulu) folk song:

Shosholozah
Shosholozah
Ku lezontabah
Stimela siphum’ eSouth Africa
Shosholozah
Shosholozah
Ku lezontabah
Stimela siphum’ eSouth Africa
Wen’ uyabalekah
Wen’ uyabalekah
Ku lezontabah
Stimela siphum’ eSouth Africa

Roughly translated as:

Go forward
Go forward
on those mountains
train from South Africa.
Go forward
Go forward
You are running away
You are running away
on those mountains
train from South Africa.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s