of the bush. Wet sacks and branches with seared leaves mopping up flames.
A strange dance in the wind – the fire pushing forward, men shuffling back from burning arms, then at their paces – forward, back – when the wind changed.
Dawn finally reclaimed the land as the field smouldered. The sweet smell of ash like powdered sugar beneath our feet. Tufts of grass crumbling with each step we took, our bodies torn by the effort – clothes matted to us with sweat.
All night – the dance.
No mirror apart from the effigy folding and unfolding in the basin. Ash in my palms, dusk-like and dusty. The bathroom, sombre – a distorted face undulating on the water as I stare clean into its depth.
Into the eye of water,
within the chipped discoloured basin, his face peering back at me, his wholesome image staring from beneath the surface.
Carefully I place my hand to the reflection – lightly, so as not to cause a quiver or the slightest stir; so gently the water rises to my fingertips.
I feel his cheek, an unconscious brittle sound of stubble rustling through the air, remembering I kissed him there, upon those deep eddies of dimples whenever we parted for more than a day.
For two days his coffin lay in the living room, the room saturated with chants and wails, dirges and local hymns. Hosho spraying rhythm all night, the seeds and dry gourd accompanied by beating drums and the flare of a kudu-horn.
The coffin was lifted at dawn, the hearse waited in the driveway. The procession spooling out of the house like black thread, the needle the coffin. Around the household, through the yard, they carried him: through the orchard, the rose garden – past the swing, past the geyser with its metal door open, the cottage, and finally beneath the fir-tree.
The starling gone. The sky swollen with clouds. Rain clouds.
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