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This poem is taken from PN Review 124, Volume 25 Number 2, November - December 1998.

Ntsikana's Bell Guy Butler


When exiled Moses was tending sheep in the desert
God spoke to him through something a shepherd
would understand, a bush ablaze with life.

When Ntsikana went to look at his cattle
God spoke to him through a flash of the dawning sun
striking the side of Hulushe his favourite ox.

Strange things happened. Whirlwinds interrupted
his dancing. But he said nothing. Words must wait.
All day he stood at the gate of his cattle kraal.

His people wondered. They heard him softly humming,
humming a chant such as no one had ever heard.
Ele le le home, hom, hom -

a sound that came from an endless quietness,
deeper than the wells of words, above
the clouds where music breeds, home, home -

At last came the words themselves: not spoken, sung
from the heart, an izibongo for Thixo,1

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