All his life, he’s galloped at the center
of the herd, pressed and protected by jolting
bodies as they swept across the veldt
like a river of horn meat, blood, and hair.
Yet no matter how the rest bellowed
and banged, how dense their heat
and stink, he sensed a space between him
and the rout. He knew he savored
the lush grass a little more, slurped more
pleasurably from the turbid streams,
loved more powerfully the spring migration
to the forest, the fall migration back
through sloshing rain. He coupled
with more and prettier females, always
with special force and tenderness, loving
their offspring as they fell—bloody,
helpless, struggling to stand—then,
imbued with full gnu-ness, loping away.
Only he could grasp (he thought)
the incongruity of Gnu—cobbled
from spare parts before God infused
the drives of His Own heart. Yet now
he moves toward the margins of his herd.
(Or does the center shove him out?)
Now he runs, not in a torrent,
but a trickling stream, as when galaxies
that clump into a creamy mass of light,
thin to empty corners of the night.
He tries to shove back to the center.
The crush won’t let him in. The grass
he tramples reeks of blood. Hearing
moans and howls, he scents the lions,
hyenas, crocodiles he shook to think of,
back when fear was fun. Do they creep
closer every day? Or does he, like all
the old ones, run toward them now?
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 3.
See all items about Charles Harper Webb