I stood knee deep in the water
Looking at the brown body half submerged before me.
Its skin like dry paper
Or the skin of a well-cooked chicken.
I watched fascinated by the death,
The water playfully lapping about it
While I felt terrified to be near it.
‘Not so near, not so near,’
I whispered to myself.
The river had the brown colour of chocolate and the smell
Was of swamp, fish and now death.
My shorts were wet; I was not supposed to be swimming
But the temperature of the day increased
Until the river sand burned my feet and I needed to stand in the cool of the water.
The strong current, the smooth stones under my feet made me feel so good.
The animal’s horns were white and clean, the only things, apart from its teeth
That were not rotting, falling away. A part of its rib cage poked through its hide
The cow must have come from a farm nearby, or perhaps a farmer had dumped it.
None the less I was frozen, knee deep and fascinated.
Someone from the bank called my name, a woman,
I turned and saw her coming over the sand toward me,
Her yells, high and forceful.
She was not from here; she came to this town to study
My parents paid her to take care of me.
I wanted her in the water with me,
I wanted her confronted with this death and this life.
I was only young, but I was fascinated by her,
She would let me watch her dry her hair after the shower.
I would sit quietly, watching her face,
That gentle smile, the movement of her eyes as they flashed behind her blown hair
That soft brown blown hair that danced like fires on the sun.
She stood by the river, not screaming, just speaking to me
Asking me if I were to swim.
So kindly, so gently.
She had shown me pictures of her time in Africa
She had shown me pictures of her boyfriend.
His dark black skin shone like precious stones, his smile
His confident look, challenging the camera.
He had been run over by a truck
She told me
They had been together on the street and he had stepped out
She saw him
Pushed along the ground as a boot would do to a banana.
She had held me to her as she told the story
I hugged her and listened to her heartbeat
She smelled of honey and spice
‘What is that there?” she asked
We both stood in the heat, the sound of the river like a crowd’s murmur
And pondered the mystery of this death.