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John Eppel

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Kiewietjies

Kiewietjies

Our totem, our familiar, was the crowned

plover that populated the playing

fields of Milton.  They made a screeching cry

of alarm when we almost crushed their eggs

or worse, their chicks, in vulnerable nests:

slight scrapes in the ground.  In wintry July,

attired incongruously in blazers

and slops, carrying our two shillings worth,

once a week, Thursdays, of tuck shop goodies:

two tickey cools flavoured orange and green,

six pink marshmallow fish, six ‘apricots’,

and a peppermint crisp; rekkens round our

necks to pot at pied crows, and a rolled up

exercise book for playing open gates

or touch rugby:  we made our way to Top

Field where the flocks were largest, chikkering

away, foraging  –  run, stop, run, stop, run -

for termites or, after guti, earthworms.

 

What drove me to it I shall never know,

but I broke its leg with the catapult,

swivelling my aim from a raucous crow…

the First Team rugby posts began to tilt,

the lapwings faded into their own din.

We chased the wounded bird and brought it down.

My friends said I had yielded to a sin -

they touched its leg and stroked its candid crown;

tied it, feebly quarrelling, to  my chest.

I have to keep it there until it dies.

My adolescent heart became its nest.

It’s with me still.  Kiewiet, kiewiet, it cries.

 

 

 

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