Madagascan Ghost Dancers

by David Oakley-Hill

You cannot kill the ghosts.
To break the taboo
is banishment or death

Seek the big one

From peacock coastal forest palms
through giant ferns and creepers
deep into Egyptian shade
unseen gently rippling water
falling through time
to the deep vibrating calls of frogs
slithering down a steep scarp

Colour-changing gurkha lizard
shape-shifting chameleon
in a rainbow of dusty spray-filled light
prism splayed and filtered from above
indri wailing through the jungle
high on drug of dawn

I hear them first
piercing the twilight
joyous, frisky noises off
shrill cries of the sifaka

their dance is not for others
an unfamiliar sound brings them to silence
they knew I was there before I saw them
a troop of floating wraiths
trembling tails and twitching ears on high alert
white against a streaky corridor of black-green bark
glistening in the semi-night
then silently the pale shapes swing
effortless and agile merging with the darkness
in an elegance of rhythm, in formation flowing
from one invisible rope to another
as if passing a baton to a partner –
whisking in retreat from the intruder who
has stepped into their playful world
to interrupt their pirouettes - then
soaked into obsidian, they are gone

and soon
I am blinking in the light
to the dull red glow of an adobe oven
and sweet scent of tamarind
In my ears the cries ring still
down the sixty million years before man
when they first floated on rafts from the mainland
where great flightless birds would stride these avenues
with no predators to fear

lemurs and their song
exist out of time
but their future is closing in
telescoped by a crude and greedy race
how much sand in the glass
the taboo is broken?

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