Song of the First Warrior
(In her book ‘There Were Zulus at the Bottom of
my Garden’ Margaret Heard recounts the legend
of how death came into the world. She tells how
the Spirit sent a lizard to tell the first man that he
might live forever. Then he sent a chameleon to tell
him he must die. The lizard set off at top speed but
fell asleep on the way, so that the chameleon, who
plodded along steadily, was first to arrive ‒with
his message of death.)
Too late, lizard, too late,
Your cousin the chameleon called
With his round, unblinking stare.
I peered through the gauze of his signaling skin ‒
Saw all my future there:
Black as the heart of the tyrant king;
White as the words of men who bring
Bibles, thundersticks and gin;
Red as the river with warrior blood;
Green as the serpent who sleeps in the mud;
Gold as the leaping lion in the sky;
Silver as bullets; blue as the eye
Of the woman who journeyed over the sea
With tales of a mangod nailed to a tree.
Too late, lizard, too late.
History was fashioned while you took your rest;
Already the sun bleeds into the West
And the stars are an army with spears aimed at my breast.
Too late, lizard, too late. . .