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The Sound of the Stars, by Stephen Watson

July 19, 1998

When I slept at my grandfather's, in his hut,

I would sit with him, outside in the cool.

I would ask him about the sound which I heard,

which I sometimes seemed to hear speaking.

He'd say it was stars that were speaking.

"The stars say Tsau! They say Tsau! Tsau!"

They are cursing the springbok's eyes, he'd say.

"This is the sound that stars like to make;

and summer's the time they like to sound."

When at my grandfather's, I listened to stars.

I could hear the sound, the speech of the stars.

Tsatsi would say it was these that I heard,

that they were cursing the springboks' eyes

to help us in hunting, in tracking down game.

Later, when full-grown, and a hunter as well,

I was the one who listened, still listened.

I could sit there and hear it come very close:

the star-sound Tsau, sounding Tsau! Tsau!

From "The Lava of This Land: South African Poetry 1960-1996," edited by Denis Hirson (TriQuarterly Books / Northwestern University Press: 328 pp., $17.95)

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