Late Rains

I've trudged my way from Kariba to the Portuguese border line
I've tracked through the Valley in summer's heat, with the stick in a skirmish line
I've humped my pack and my rifle, and my ammo and canteens too
And I've sweated me dry 'neath the weighted sky when the rains are overdue

I've watched the mealie stalks turn to dust and the trees to a parchment brown
And the rivers shrink 'til the fish can't drink, and even the lions lie down
I've slogged through the kopjies rock by rock, scratched to bits by the bush and the thorn
While the birds just sit, and the cheetahs quit, in the face of a blazing morn

I've seen God's riches wither and die, seen might bleached down to bones
On a fruitless march to a waterhole to find that no-one's home
I've stumbled on crazy-paved earth where the rivulets used to flow
And trod shimmering rocks that melted my socks as the heat swelled from below

Heat that hammers at you like an anvil, Satan's fires raised on high
And all you can do is turn pleading eyes to a merciless, washed-out sky
In search of the slightest hint of a breeze, some sign of a brief respite
From the furnace that sucks at your very soul as you pray for the fall of night

I've staggered my way into evening with a pebble inside my cheek
I've cursed the dust and the heat and the flies and my kit and my poor damned feet
And longed for the day when the noon grows dark, and the thunderheads storm and roil
When the lightning snakes, and the rainclouds break, and bring blessed end to this toil.

When in just a day, in its magic way, the bush starts to turn to green
As sap bursts back through the raindrop's touch, the most beautiful sight I've seen
And the zebras prance, and the daisies bloom, and the gnu dash to and fro
As the rains bring new life to Rhodesia's land - the most beautiful land I know.

Richard Fenner
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