He had forgotten how to walk,
the child they found roosting
upside down in the cave depths,
cauled in silence and darkness,
arms folded across his chest.
For years he had gleaned beetles
from the chamber floor, snaffled
moths and mosquitoes in mid-air,
lapped from the silted pool at twilight.
Startled by halogen beams,
spelunkers’ thudding boots,
his family, roused from torpor,
had abandoned its crevices, swarmed
above the harnessed men,
through the hibernaculum mouth
and disappeared into the woods.
Now, monitored by behaviourists
behind an observation pane,
the boy huddles on a cot, his head
against his knees, eyes closed,
squeaking as if echolocation
might guide him home.
Shortlisted for the Sol Plaatjie European Union Poetry Award 2012.