She strained and grunted, and paced, in the cage they have made for her. The birth time was near.
Her partner hovers nearby in his separate cage. The musk of her sweat rises between them.
I never thought we’d be here. Groaning, between pants. No grass! No breeze! No sun!
He stretches toward her, I am near. And as I am near so is the veldt.
She groans again, the forelegs of her calf protruding now and he paces in worry, in love, in consternation and helplessness.
Listen, he tells her. Listen, the springboks are herding, they low at the distant smell of the great rhino.
Harken my lief to the dry rustle of acacia leaves in the thornveld. The black death stink of the Cape Buffalo lingering at the water hole. The dusty yellow smell of the lions, and the hot grass.
They touch noses through the small space allowed.
No mother earth to cradle him, she mourns, between great pants as the slickened calf drops.
Shh he soothes from behind the bars, pacing on their concrete. The Great Mother is still beneath us, she echoes with the distant dull thuds of the zebra on the bushveld, feel how our hearts beat to their rhythm.
Hear my liefde the sighing of the Khulu wind come to breathe its cooling breath on your labours.
He watches the calf stir and stretch, her patient ministering.
Listen, little one and I will teach you the sounds of your home. The sharp warning cry of the widowbird, the startled flash of her red wing. The incessant chirruping of the plovers.
Above them he sways. I will never leave you, he promises them. I will always be with you in the whicker of the locust storms over the springtime savannah, in the chittering of the weaverbirds building nests in the tall grasses that wave and bend at the gazelles and wildebeests traveling, traveling past.