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In The Kalahari Desert

Written by: Craig Raine | Biography
 The sun rose like a tarnished
looking-glass to catch the sun

and flash His hot message
at the missionaries below--

Isabella and the Rev.
Roger Price, and the Helmores with a broken axle left, two days behind, at Fever Ponds.
The wilderness was full of home: a glinting beetle on its back struggled like an orchestra with Beethoven.
The Hallé, Isabella thought and hummed.
Makololo, their Zulu guide, puzzled out the Bible, replacing words he didn't know with Manchester.
Spikenard, alabaster, Leviticus, were Manchester and Manchester.
His head reminded Mrs.
Price of her old pomander stuck with cloves, forgotten in some pungent tallboy.
The dogs drank under the wagon with a far away clip-clopping sound, and Roger spat into the fire, leaned back and watched his phlegm like a Welsh rarebit bubbling on the brands.
.
.
When Baby died, they sewed her in a scrap of carpet and prayed, with milk still darkening Isabella's grubby button-through.
Makololo was sick next day and still the Helmores didn't come.
The outspanned oxen moved away at night in search of water, were caught and goaded on to Matabele water-hole-- nothing but a dark stain on the sand.
Makololo drank vinegar and died.
Back they turned for Fever Ponds and found the Helmores on the way.
.
.
Until they got within a hundred yards, the vultures bobbed and trampolined around the bodies, then swirled a mile above their heads like scalded tea leaves.
The Prices buried everything-- all the tattered clothes and flesh, Mrs.
Helmore's bright chains of hair, were wrapped in bits of calico then given to the sliding sand.
'In the beginning was the Word'-- Roger read from Helmore's Bible found open at St.
John.
Isabella moved her lips, 'The Word was Manchester.
' Shhh, shhh, the shovel said.
Shhh.
.
.



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