Ziziphus mucronata. Buffalo thorn. Duel barbed spines.

You draw us with red round fruit, then hold us fast: wag-‘n-bietjie.

Why don’t you ever release us — are you lonely, wanting love?



Day Twenty

Prompt: Write a sijo (Korean 시조, pronounced SHEE-jo). This is a traditional Korean poetic form. Sijo are written in three lines, each averaging 14-16 syllables for a total of 44-46 syllables. (The lines usually are written in a 3-4-4-4 pattern, the last line grouped as 3-5-4-3.)

I (once again) chose the Buffalo Thorn (Ziziphus mucronata) as my theme. The tree enchants me. When I sit at my desk I look out on a beautiful specimen. How wonderfully it adorns my view! Often hosting a variety of birds (especially when the fruit is in season), it also attracts assorted antelope and squirrels. Its zig-zag twigs are quite striking in the winter when they stand out against the blue sky.

BUT those who know the tree keep their distance. For the Buffalo Thorn, armed with pairs of thorns, one hooked and the other straight, catches human prey and refuses to let them go. Those who struggle to be released are often further entangled. The Afrikaans name for the tree is “wag-‘n-bietjie” which means “wait a bit” (as you will not be extricated easily!). In Zululand when a person dies, their spirit is thought to remain in that place. Branches of the Ziziphus mucronata are used to catch the spirit and return it home with the body.