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Nkima Speaks


David A. Adams

By means most wonderfully magic and apart,

I came upon that sandy shore once again,

That landlocked harbor washed by the sea,

Great palms waving overhead—warm,

Salt spray misting my jungle into pleasant green.

Barefoot and bold, I left footprints in the sand

For all to see—apes and leopards alike,

For I had returned to this homeland place,

The sturdy cabin by the shore,

The books I taught myself to read yet as a child,

The hunting knife keen to touch after all these years.

And he was there, the dusky lad with skin of bronze,

Hair falling across his eyes, just now brushed away

With slight, shy smile. “O, you’re back,” he simply said,

Waving a hand smooth as an arrow,

Indicating where I should sit upon the floor.

“Yes,” I replied, my heart welling up with joy,

“I have returned,” and the boy tossed a diamond

Across the chasm of time like a pebble

That I caught in a tiny fist like a toy.

“You have not changed,” he said, glancing sideways

At me with a playful wink. “No,” I answered somewhat surprised

At the obvious truth discovered, “nothing has really changed.”

“Well, then,” my old companion exclaimed, eyes widening

With expectancy, “Let us be off. Kudu, the sun, is already high.

The day is made for hunting!”

Escaping through the window,

(Who has need of doors?)

We flew together to the waiting trees

Where the boy made a springing leap, catching

A branch with outstretched arm, naturally

As the ape he was, and in a moment he stood above me

Upon a gently bending limb.

He cocked his head at me almost like a bird - -

So easily he imitated all the beasts of the forest - -

“Aren’t you coming?” he softly spoke with that strange

Tongue I remembered him always using

Whenever he went into the wild.

I stood looking into the heights - -

Those mighty forest monarchs rustling

And waving in the tropic air. “So deep,”

I thought, “so far above me I can fall upwards

Instead of down.” His arm was bent to catch me,

And so I took a breath and sprang into the leaves once more.

He lifted me like a feather; gravity disappeared,

And I was standing beside him on the branch

That suddenly seemed smooth and easy as a grassy pathway

Where I could walk and never fall.

“It will all come back to you in awhile,”

(His thin lips did not move this time;

The sound was in my head)

And I knew the fact was true.

I looked as he spun away—a blur of motion,

Climbing quickly as an ape to the top of the forest,

“The upper terraces,” he called it fondly,

And indeed he came alive there, springing hand-to-hand

Through leafy mazes as easily as you and I walk down

A familiar street.

High above me now, he waved that I should arise,

And so I bent my knees and sprang across the chasm

And found the branch moving to my hand. It was

As natural as I remembered, and I ascended like a lark.

I must admit, I panted a little beside him

When I reached those airy heights. We sat upon a bending branch

Where he found a round of fruit to eat,

Passing a bunch to me. I found them as delicious

As they tasted those years before,

The juice of them running down my face

That I wiped away with my naked arm.

“Why not go to Opar?” the ape-child spoke to me,

Cutting my soul with those grey eyes the way

He knew they would. I must confess I gasped

When I heard that name again—Opar the Golden,

City of the Beast-Men and of Our Lady La.

“Then, Opar is real?” I said without thinking,

A little dizzy at the thought. “Of course,” he said,

Shaking his hair like the mane of a lion,

“You’ve been there many times before.”

“O, yes, O, yes,” I replied holding the branch just for balance.

“I have been to Opar.”

The boy placed one hand on my shoulder

To steady my uncertainness.

“You will be with me,” he said.

His hand tightened firmly, and with that assurance,

I gazed into those pools of deepest grey,

As golden walls of stone rose before me

With glassy towers of jeweled splendor,

The flowery magnificence. “Opar,” I whispered,

The Ape-child nodded,

And we moved off across the forest like shadows in the morning mist.

First printed in ERB-APA #59 (Fall 1998)