September 2017

Back to Issue 2

A Chorale of the Savanna

By Paul Scully

The waterhole at dusk is a gravity of thirst,

a regalia of species in the reeds, a nerve

arcing to the throat-song of lions: wariness

the pulse of animal calm.

                                         I soak it in like a boab,

storing memory in a milky pulp to sustain me

through the lean years, when the present

will be a plough, my mind beyond tillage.


The black heron arches and fans its wings

into a canopy of feigned night; the shadowed fish

purrs through its gills, its day’s toil almost complete.


Ahhmmsah!  I am the river of that sound,

heft, a silverback.  My gait will always be four-limbed.

While others forage in them, the trees

are my pennants and heralds.  I enthrone

each time I sit.

                             Over the mountain

the blood-and-serous-eyed insurgents

have gouged and blistered our sanctuary,

the poachers’ machete and panga are vultures

of the living.

                         Here, in the Karisimbi, the guides

and trackers bring the tourists, who must lift

lenses from their chests to their flat-lidded

  sockets to see us properly.  We ponder

  their strangeness, the distance they keep.


  We have learned trust

  can only ever be a truce.


        The pathfinder, a she-buffalo, leads

        the herd, her knowledge of watercourse

        and lush pasture sure-footed, her step

        constant through ravine and scree,

        her instinct a collective noun.


                            A dazzle of zebras

                            A memory of elephants

                            A rumpus of baboons

                            A bloat of hippos

                            A tower of giraffes

                                                               An intrusion of jeeps and landrovers

                                                               A paste and mash of tourists

                                                               A facsimile of cameras

                                                               A dotage of journals