Easter eve on a hillside in a valley, a Valley of a Thousand Hills, it’s western ridge lifting steadily, lifting with the spin of the world through ragged red streaks of cloud up into the darkening, star-specked sky.
Wrapped in a dark brown rug, twitching and grunting, a boy on the hillside dreams in the grass. The jumpy red flames of a thorn-wood fire flicker quick changes of light and shadow on his face, a soil-smudged hand, pushed out from under the rug, lies unfurled by his side.
Young native, citizen and explorer of earth, your howls of frustration and shouts of glee, your scowls and hugs are as frank and primitive as the night through which the planet sails it’s valleys and mountains, it’s animals, plants and seas. Scooping you up, I sense a kinship that stretches back, being after being, down long millennia of bush and grassland, through epochs of ice and rain, to life’s first twitch in primordial brine. You rouse such compassion in me now, you animate my faith, that love involves our beings best, and Christ resurrected is love restored.
Climbing the hill, your small-boned body’s passion for life held in my arms. I crunch across fire-blackened tufts of grass towards the dim white blur of a building on the crest. A backlit, sky-blue curtain flicks aside, a window swings open. Your mother leans across the sill and says, I’m glad you’re back, it’s late.
I pause on the stoep and watch the valley’s eastern ridge spin slowly down, down into the dark abyss of space. Brightly serene, above the silhouettes of boulders, bush, power-lines, sheds and trees along the rim of our world, a full moon rises silently into sight, it’s rough white shape that of the rock rolled from the entrance to a tomb.
[From ‘Epiphanies’, by Chris Mann, published by The Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, 2017. After 15 years of poverty alleviation work in rural areas, Chris Mann moved with his family to Grahamstown, where he is convenor of Wordfest South Africa, and Professor Emeritus of Poetry at Rhodes University]