The Poetry of Mary K O'Melveny



We are going to walk today

through the African bush.

Shadowed by the Zambian mountains,

sun bright above us.

Leonard is in charge.

Frederick, in camouflage,

holds the rifle ready.

They have been intimate with this land.


We traverse slowly across the savannah.

Elegant Acacias and Baobabs

accompany us as we move slowly along.

Weavers nests sway from the trees

-- always on the Western side --

“work harder” “work harder”

sing the Weaver ladies

to their eager hopeful mates.


Pottery shards strewn about

suggest an ancient village life.

There is a quick archeologist’s rush,

but we learn soon enough

that these are remains of recent vintage,

fragments of modern rescue --

Tsetse fly eradication measures

necessary to save thousands.


We can see outlines of riverbeds

that will swirl and roil when Spring deluges arrive.

Today, even a sprinkling seems unlikely.

They lie dry with dust, whispery traces

of furies that will rage.  We stoop down,

like beachcombers to grasp delicate pink rocks,

shining mica flecks wink in early sun

next to bleached bones of a once venerable Hippo.


Termite mounds emerge --

red clay architectural sentinels.

These mounded pyramids

shroud teeming life beneath --

gardeners sowing and harvesting,

workers designing and constructing,

military soldiers standing ready,

to defend their productive Queen.


Leonard leads us past mementos,

deposits and fossils.  In the distance,

faint sounds emerge from newer dramas.

Lions preparing for a rumble.  Monkey chatter.

Leonard knows their stories too.

He stops us.  Kneels down to read

from sandy footprints and patterns

-- who is tracking whom?



(Royal Zambezi Lodge Preserve, Zambia)












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