Lisa Alletson: Hike with my Sister

In the Drakensberg mountains–
ancient Zulu battlegrounds,
we return to hike our childhood trails.

Sweating in the African sun,
we clamber boulders
laughing at circling vultures,

careful to avoid the blood-red
blooms of sharp spiral aloes
dotting our path.

We pass the cliffside
where you once insisted
on waiting with me
in a storm, terrified
while Mom and Dad
climbed to the summit.

Pausing at a creek
I tell you about my life, ask,
would things have been different
if I’d stayed in Africa.

You don’t answer.
The river turns away.

“Look after yourself,” you say,
your thoughts reaching for mine
as if I were the one broken.

I look downstream where life
runs green. You look up
at the setting sun. I am careful
not to slip on the wet rocks

because I am not ready
to let go of your ashes
in their tiny wooden box.

“Sala kahle,” you whisper
through the breeze.

“Go well,” I respond.

[an earlier draft of Hike with my Sister was featured on Scribe]

Lisa Alletson

Lisa Alletson of Toronto, Canada, writes poetry influenced by her childhood in the Cape Province during apartheid, and her upbringing on three continents. The natural, historic and cultural experiences of each place are reflected in her raw imagery and memorable language. Her writing has been published in the Globe and Mail (Canada’s largest national daily newspaper), The Bangalore Review, Dreamers Magazine, Blank Spaces, Dodging the Rain, Fresh Voices, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Poetry Pause (poem-a-day). She is an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets.

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