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Okavango Interlude

March 19, 2011 20 comments

Botswana swelters and the Delta sighs
where Okavango meets hot desert sands.
Soaring high on rising thermals, eagles
effortlessly glide under azure skies;
lords of the air above sunkissed lands.

But far below on verdant flood plains
in the lush African Gardens of Eden,
that yield to salt by the suns attention,
where life survives by natures decree,
down here, a different predator reigns.

A troop of chacma baboons congregate
as the heat of day cools to sticky dusk.
Thirsty and wary, they approach water
but the dust and the dusk obscure much
and stragglers are unaware of their state.

The moment is seized by a young leopard,
perhaps this act was her rite of passing,
for although still cub, her body is full
and she leaps upon a lonely baboon
and kills it quickly before she is heard.

With ungainly gait from dragging the kill
she heads up the nearest tree, for safety
from the prying eyes of hungry hyenas
and makes ready to eat, until her meal
moves, plunging her world into confusion.

From the dead haven of blood-matted fur
a baby baboon drops by the leopard
who is unsure and bats it like a mouse
but maternal instinct gets the better
and an amazing scene is soon played out.

The leopard licks and cleans the baby ape
and snuggles it for warmth through the night
but simian balance is still unsteady
as the day old baboon falls from the tree
and each time the leopard fetches it back.

Daylight dawns and eagles queue for thermals
as the sun comes over the oasis.
The leopard, cub no more, fully fledged now
slinks away from the dead baby baboon
into the sweltering Okavango Delta.

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This tale, the third in what seems to be evolving as my ‘Africa’ series, is again based on truth. Just google ‘Legadema’, the name of the leopard cub that inspired this piece. It really is quite incredible reading, and watching it as it actually happened is quite amazing.

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dented pride

March 9, 2011 12 comments

the stifling humidity of daytime veldt drips menacingly
into dusk and teases the fraying tempers of the mega pride
that slumbers in the deep shade of acacias growing along
the River Sabie deep within the vast Kruger National Park

empty stomachs growl as restless they stir impatient for
the engulfing coolness of the balmy night that brings forth
scents and sounds of potential dinner and the promise of
more lessons in killing techniques and also of the hunt

hungry but listless the lions muster and slouch away
to prowl amongst the red bush willows and buffalo grass
under the watchful eye of the females their mentors while
the elder males are absent on lion-like business elsewhere

startled in the long grass is a lone hippopotamus
sensing imminent danger it grunts in panicked alarm
eyeing one another predators and prey consider
their options when suddenly the hippo decides to run

the young lions hesitate awaiting instruction or
perhaps a demonstration from the knowledgeable queens
who observe with disdain the incompetence of this pride
of unskilled adolescents hungering for their first kill

the eldest sub adult seizes the moment  and gives chase
pouncing atop the flanks of the fleeting frightened quarry
astride the beast he’s carried for several yards gripping
desperately with extended claws lest he’s thrown aside

the pride jostle aimlessly still unsure of procedure
but hunger drives them on as they follow the frantic pair
who halt abruptly when the cat bites into hippo spine
disgorging blood soon licked up by the vampiric feline

the youthful pretender lacks the strength to finish his task
and still the rest hold back preferring another to bring
their meal finally the females press forward anxious this
quarry is quickly brought to ground they circle around it

disaster strikes in a frozen instant the hippo snaps
monstrous gaping jaws in anger at the pride plucking a
leaping lioness cleanly from the group and clamping her
head with two thousand pounds of inescapable pressure

dropping its dying victim the hippos opportunity comes
to escape the confusion it has caused uncaring that once more
the prides hunger will go unsated he runs to the safe waters
of the River Sabie deep within the Kruger National Park

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This poem about the intended prey turning the tables and coming off the victor was inspired by the still picture shown above it. The still, which is unfortunately not very clear, is from a short video of this whole amazing scene that I found while searching for suitable pictures to illustrate a previous, similar poem (The Banquet). If you enjoyed that one, I hope you also enjoyed this, and vice versa, of course 🙂

The Banquet

February 19, 2011 11 comments

On muddied banks of the flowing Galana River
at the teeming heart of Tsavos’ rolling savannah
where rising thermals ripple the distant horizon
and shimmer under the searing Kenyan sun
a banquet of poached pachyderm is served

cadaver d’elephant en marinade de quagmire

first is a spotted hyena cautious alert pricked
ears and hungry he advances unchecked and
with no resistance thrusts his head fully inside
the succulence of his supine suppers’ anus
soon the whole pack are feasting too ripping
flesh and bone and hide asunder with ferocious
ease they concentrate on softness – the belly
the mouth the genitals the pus filled wound
and soon there are gaping cavities exposing
raw innards and the hyenas now sated slink
silently away to sleep off the first course

come the dawn – come the flies in their
thousands they gather and meet upon the
mammoth manna where they crawl and
copulate and feed and drink and die and
procreate playing their unwitting part
in the endless cycle of natures’ food chain

quarter-pounder pachyburger with flies

then a leopard approaches and pounces atop
the buzzing corpse and rakes exposed neck
with extended claws perhaps pretending this was
his kill and wastes no time in eating his fill in
ignorance of the swarm of incessant pregnant flies

daylight again and only the flies, always the flies
dining and their larvae writhing in their frass
hatch with alarming alacrity  that just half an
hour after their soft-tissued elephantine
inception maggots egress and seek out secretive
sanctuary in the deepest bloodiest sanctum
of the savannah’s slaughtered son
through eye socket they squirm into decaying
brain tissue where recessed from bestial
intrusion the mass can ingest in relentless seclusion

brulée de brain avec maggot compote

a silver back jackal and his mate come quietly along
enormous ears erect they acquiesce to the alpha female
of they hyena pack and join the frenzied feeding throng
that gorges again on their claimed prize unmindful and
uncaring of the accompanying maggot mass for still the
dead hulk pulsates with life as more and more diners
arrive intent on devouring the protein rich maggots
numerous birds – larks thrushes starlings weavers peck
at the abundant supply while underfoot are beetles
lizards and spiders all eating or being eaten as the
elephant is reduced back to its component parts

finally it is done after several days of digestion even
the maggots are gone and all that remains is a ragged
hide stretched across a few gnawed bones that bear
no resemblance to the once great beast that died
on the muddied banks of the flowing Galana River.

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