South Serengeti, July, 2016
Some time after sun rise,
Three lionesses swim through
the tall, buff, grass.
Save for three lioness-length disturbances
Surfacing and disappearing and resurfacing
Their rustles audible only just before
They part the curtain of Serengeti
and step out into the ashen boundary
the wake of daily control burns
“Oh, they are all three very young,” our guide whispers
Watching them cross the narrow dirt road in perfect unison
cavalier calculating unafraid
They halt at the well-worn bank
of a meager mud-blackened pond.
My daughter and I are close and still
We listen to their pink tongues lap
She smiles and mouths wow
Brown eyes widen
The lionesses crouch
feminine feline forelegs
like the tops of swamp reeds
into the footprints of lesser beasts
who have the good sense to clear out early.
Is there a tacit understanding
Between the children of dead fathers?
My father died our guide says
he was raised by women
in his village near the base of Kilimanjaro
He tells us
He does not show his scars
He does not tell us what it means to a young man.
He does not reveal what it means
To listen to flies in the heat
Before walking the trail to dinner
He does not reveal what it means to
listen to birds keeping time
like long ago clocks
or what it means to watch a starling
take flight and disappear
into a yellowing sky
or what it means to stare at a straggle of zebras
grazing and ever grazing
or what does it mean to be one year shy of fifty
and be somewhere far from home
or what a leopard means when his eyes and teeth
seem to say
these are my teeth
these are my eyes
this is everything you will always lose.
he will only say
get down, please
he will only say
hold on please
and I want to show you the wild dogs.