Kinabatangan glides into wet valleys
that see only the headhunter's bark like face
with eyes dark as fresh tar. Man of the river people.
His women, sun ripe mangoes
with nipples like young ginger roots.
Lips stained with betel juice. Blooming cerise.
The Murut buys buffaloes, plants paddy.
Drinks rice beer until his brown skin glows
mahogany red. Takes a bride to his reed mat.
She harvests rice, builds his fire, cooks
in the best blue enamelware. Wild palm's heart.
Turtle eggs with sunken shells.
On nights which smell of tree buds
and wet leaves, he slips loose her henna-red
sarong. Hauled high between her legs.
Her third child dies in her. A small procession
struggles into the hills. On unconsecrated ground
the pagans will bury their dead.