Coming Back From the Safari

There we are
Head to head
Mouths open
Eyelids shut
Bumpity Bumpity In the back seat
Of Dorsey’s
Land Rover
Gabrielle And Miguel
And Kathy
Sandy too
And that guy
Who picked and
Picked his nose

Bumpity bumpity
In that rickety car
Riding the rutty road
From en brousse
Back to our little 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 scented darkness
We listened to our comrades
Tell their histoires in French
While crickets chirped gladly
In the dew dappled grass
Announcing with fervor
The awakening day
And we knew then that what
We had blithely started
Was quickly unfolding
And that what lay ahead
Was nothing that we feared

When the sun rose everything stopped
While it lit up the savanna
Glittering on the fields of grass
And glowing on the tumbleweed Ficus trees and jacarandas

For all of that morning through the grasslands
We drove on, looking for little wonders
And found them, one by one, to our delight
And then suddenly we saw the lions Two prides there were lying in little clumps
In the shade of a leafy canopy
Of acacia, looking so like kittens
Placid, almost meek, they looked up at us
As we eased our truck just up beside them
Rolling down the windows we spoke to them
First with the respect royalty merits And then, as they ignored us, more boldly
And finally shrieking like hyenas
We got the king to lift its lofty head
And it seemed to me I was his master
Fearless, I opened the door and stepped down
And in one heart stopping moment he rose
Turned toward me and before either of us
Took our next breaths I was back in the car

We roared away, billowing dust
Knowing how all jackals must feel
Alert and in love with life and 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 see this photo
I can remember how the sunlight felt
On my face, half-asleep