How will we say no this time?
How will we forget how small he was
and how the whorl of his lately-licked fur
between new eyes
followed the rain troughs through the clay
to the long-empty stream?
How will we forget how steady
was God’s hand as she drew in kohl
beneath his eyes
and how ardently she smudged the oils
down the swollen slope of his nose?
How will we forget?
His hooves are seed pods still furred!
You have killed his mother
while she still had young.
as though a rebuke will change how small he is.
(And is this a rebuke here?)
You thought to yourselves
We will sell him, and aimed your guns.
As you try not to look
into the duiker antelope’s eyes
your hands hang by your side, big
as the machetes strapped to the hunters’ backs, big
like you only just realised your presence
in this country did the deed.
You assume too much!
The duiker blinks like equatorial suns
both slowly and before you are ready.
We remember the darling of mum’s heart.
We remember how she doted on her antelope baby
as she did not know to dote on her daughters
or her son when we were this small.
We remember how her darling sapling-stepping antelope
disappeared one day, grown so strong
on the bottles of powdered milk she fed her.
We saw her near the road, the neighbours said.
You are not telling me everything you know,
you replied, trying not to gesticulate.
You must not unman yourself
with a raised voice or a gesture too wide.
What is that I smell
on the ghosts of yesterday’s fire?
Darling darling antelope that Mum pitied!
How much will you pay?
Not one abashed. They are ready to play.
If you do not buy him he will die,
in tones they learned sucking
at Fate’s dry breasts.
He has no mother.
You close your eyes.
Who else will care for him?
You flare your nostrils
but not too unmanly wide.
You are a Stoic adaptation.
They consider this your play.
And why does he have no mother, eh?
They grin. They know our ways. Our antelope darlings.
But if I take pity, you will only slaughter more.
Don’t you know these hills were once full of deer?
Full of warthog, monkey, baboon?
And now! Now see this baby antelope
we will forget.
Many, many years later in a windowless kitchen,
eating rice and beans again
while the windows of bills
shake out like tin foil beaten too thin,
I won’t be able to bring myself to save
even twenty-five dollars of my tax return
against calamity. And I will realise
the true question.
It is not
How we would forget
but how could you not shoot?
Spending every last dollar
of the furtive movement in the tall
I will know.
The temptation to sell the fawn
was never the justification
to kill the mother.
Will the brash embroidery
and bells on the backs of a Wasingari past
fill daughters and sons?
Only Nikki parade grounds.
If you beat the splendour
of wild horses into obedience
will you hold back the hunger
felling the forest from inside, bribe by bribe?
No, I realise.
If you didn’t eat her, the neighbours would.
You would not be a laughingstock that day.
That was our job, wasn’t it?
Foreigners are good for something.
Laughing is the only way to cry
in Wasingari country.
Will we decide this time
that the former glory of these hills
is yours to lose?
We have never lived off this land.
Our own country is merciless enough
to keep our guns trained on the underbrush
in the season of the young.
(Picture credit: Tracey Beer. This print is available for sale: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/baby-duiker-tracey-snyman.html)