Sunday, May 17, 2009

Palanca Negra


At night the savannah comes to claim me.
Thirty females and their calves
in search of a leader. Shaggy manes

down each nape. White bellies, white cheeks
and that dagger of kohl down the nose.
Vibrissae, strands of black glass

under pure white chin. Nefertiti eyelashes,
aching separation of each rust hair, standing proud
from each whiffy pelt. That ready-to-flee gaze

which unleashes the epinephin
in me and in my phantom rival - who drops
to his knees among serpents of fakir shadow,

black icicles of our own shadows, antler, hock
and severed tip, sheath and core of twisted tissue,
bony spike and tine like a bifurcation diagram

in chaos theory. What does he know, this slack
Minotaur, challenging me again
in my forest of petrified keratin?

I am invincible, being extinct. He brandishes
his pair of ring-ridged horns, arcing back
like sabres. But mine are one metre fifty.

I force him down, rough him up
and suddenly as he came he is gone
like a conjuror’s rabbit and

around me is my old horizon, filtering
the grey sand, the puddled stare
of mirages like bubbles in lemonade.

There are no windows here to let in night.
But we, our backstage company of stacked
and Victorian glass eyes: we know that this is night.

You can’t fool us, the seen-it-all,
the past-all-care, inured to managed air
turned cold to keep the straw in us pest-free,

the DNA of hide and bone intact.
Now comes that twitch-tap hiss-tap
on the roof. The rain, with its ghost-knack

of conjuring swollen succulence. The nodes
we dream of, nightly. Stem and inflorescence. Bract
and culm and tiller. Prodigal array of rhizome,

ligule, floret, auricle. Lacy blades, new-flickering
to each lewd breeze. Our mid-length grass
and tremble of rising sap.

~ Ruth Padel, Giant Sable Antelope Would Like a Word with History
 

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