WILDLIFE

The big male giraffe glides
across the savannah,
intent on shepherding
his pod of wives and calves.
The tourist’s camcorder
has caught the flow
of those pacing legs,
unhurried, steady as oiled
pistons. And the almost
comical dignity
of that crowned head.

The sound of the wind
is recorded too, and the low
excited murmur
of human voices. Missing
only are the smells–
of acacia, baobab, dust,
and the distant whiff of carrion.

Watching a friend’s safari
movies, I’m back with you
and Bea and me, that time–
stranded with a flat tire on a red-
dirt road somewhere in Kenya.
John had flagged down
a passing lorry, gone for help.
You smoke cigarette after
cigarette. Bea and I sip stale
water from a canteen.
Heat shimmers off the hood
of the car. The motor ticks
like a cricket as it cools.

Then out of nowhere a trio
of giraffes appears, just beyond
the roadside brush.
Peacefully pulling leaves
from the treetops with their
long, clever, purple tongues.
So near we can smell
their heat, hear their
steady chewing. So near
we can see their luminous eyes
and improbable girlish eyelashes.
Undisturbed by our human
presence–if indeed we
existed at all, for them.