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.