Coming Back From the Safari

There we are
Head to head
Mouths open
Eyes shut
Bumpity bumpity

In the back seat
Of Dorsey’s
Land Rover
Gabrielle and Miguel
And Kathy
Sandy and that

Guy picked and
Picked his nose

Bumpity bumpity
Rickety tickety truck
Rutty road
Out to en brousse
Then back again to

Our little mud-brick house
In old N’djamena

(Before the sun rose Pascal woke us, whispering,
Patron! Patron! Les camions sont arrivés! C’est
l’heure à partir!
And so I stumbled out of bed,
looked back at you and there you were in your bra
and panties, legs and belly bare, stretching… as if

We would live forever.)

In the fragrant darkness
Nos amis told leur histoires


Crickets chirped gladly
In the dew-dappled grass
Announcing the
Awakening day
I knew then –

Perhaps we knew –

That what we’d started
Was quickly unfolding
And that what lay ahead
Was not to be feared

The sun rose

Everything stopped
Lighting up the savanna
Glittering fields of grass
Gold-flaked tumbleweed

Ficus trees and jacarandas

Through the grasslands
We drove looking for little wonders
And found them, one by one,
And then suddenly, the lions

Two prides in little clumps
Acacia canopy shaded

Looking so like kittens
Placid, looking up at us
Easing up beside them
Rolling down the windows

We spoke to them respectfully
At first, but then, as they ignored us,

More boldly and finally barking

Like hyenas
The king lifted his lofty head
And it seemed to me

I was his master
Fearless now

I opened the door

Stepped down
And in one heart stopping moment

He rose, turned toward me and

Before either of us took our next breath

I was back in the car

Doors locked, windows up

We roared away, billowing dust
Knowing how jackals must feel
Alert, in the heart of life, laughing
An hour later, riding home, we fell
Into some needed sleep, head against head
Dreaming not of lions but miles and miles
Of sun-lit, spiraling-out savanna

And still today

When I look at this photo
I can remember how

The sunlight fell, felt
My face warm


Next to you

Coming home