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CAMPBELL, Roy

The Zulu Girl

When in the sun the hot red acres smoulder

Down where the sweating gang its labour plies

A girl flings down her hoe, and from her shoulder

Unslings her child tormented by flies.

She takes him to a ring of shadow pooled

By the thorn-tree: purpled with the blood of ticks,

While her sharp nails, in slow caresses ruled

Prowl through his hair with sharp electric clicks.

His sleepy mouth, plugged by the heavy nipple,

Tugs like a puppy, grunting as he feels;

Through his frail nerves her own deep languor’s ripple

Like a broad river sighing through the reeds.

Yet in that drowsy stream his flesh imbibes

And old unquenched, unsmotherable heat-

The curbed ferocity of beaten tribes,

The sullen dignity of their defeat.

Her body looms above him like a hill

Within whose shade a village lies at rest,

Or the first cloud so terrible and still

That bears the coming harvest in its breast.