Plainsong 2

Natal 1997

On my back I tie my tenth child
nameless as yet. I care for her
but will not love her, name her
till I know she will survive.

I leave the muzi early, before the sun
is strong, before the children stir
hoe our patch of land, pray
for the fattening rain.

My cows come with me to graze.
They are all named, all counted.
Their milk sees us through lean times.
They are thin wealth.

Life is an endless walk: our well
is visited more than a lover.
My daughters can balance buckets now.
They will have strength in their backs.

I will send them for wood. We will cook
outside today; one pot with rice
and butternut. Go-go will help.
She is weak but full of wisdom.

Tomorrow the cane will be fired.
Growth is good this year. The boys
will help their father. I can hear
the thud of the knife, see the sweat.

It is better than having a man who roams
the city for work. Who knows
what these city women are up to?
They will keep my sons from me.

My girls want to trade beadwork.
They are better here with me. I have seen
the trading women with dull eyes
who grow fat on a few rand.

This one on my back will go to school.
She will not miss days to help me.
Her hands will not be hacked
with the hoe. She is my dream.

And I dream too of a square house
with a tin roof and windows
and a light switch, quick and clean,
a tap to turn. One day it will come.

Christine De Luca, The Shetland Library, 2002


  • "Christine De Luca's bilingualism makes her liguistically alert and accute."Northwords, Winter Issue, 02/03
  • "There is no suggestion that the old days were better; instead, we are made to feel that the present is just another stage."The New Shetlander, No. 221 - Hairst Issue 2002
  • "De Luca is an excellent reader of her own poetry, as the accompanying CD to this volume attests."Scotland on Sunday, July 2002
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