Terms Of Childhood
She rose, interrupting her 3am sleep,
To place a rough stone on the pavement
In the long queue of stones, marking her mother’s place
In the morning line for government bread
She stands in pink at the school-bus stop
Faded satchel on her back, her eyes contained
By some slight terror of the daily world
Of the diesel clouds and traffic waves
Tending the family stall, she chases the flies
From small triangles of garlic flowers
On the metal-lined shelves of the mercado
As soldiers and inspectors deal their gains
On the evening southern Kalahari plain
Her brother said, “there are 17 white stones”.
He was jumping from one smooth top to another –
The stones that ford the stream at Kanye
I met him playing on the day
When 42 young and grown children were slain
By a death lottery apartheid raid, an act
That histories would rapidly disdain.
The soiled dictator rules out his contenders
On general terms of fear and pain.
Would there be a lifetime
By which this deal was altered -
And something close to childhood came?