Where The Land Moves On Forever
Siringitu, the Maasai named it,
the sepia expanse of grassland,
and marshes that stretches to a blur
where sky seeps into it. The vegetation
succumbs to fires unless eaten
or frozen by night winds that scythe
its stiff red grass.
Spaniards trekking through bogs
of hibiscus, christened it “El-nino Flower”
for the rains that foster it. Germans
claimed the savannas conceal Eden.
Maasai elders hear echoes
from the soil or tell hikers they see
men clothed in flames, far away
Time never came here. Under Sausage
trees, elephants scrape dust
against bark, gather its fruit
and stamp the dried stalks
into the root’s filigree.
Here, life and death are trunk and tail.
The Rover’s wheels yawed
in the cupped ruts of sand.
Dogged as wildebeasts needing water,
our tires tracked the western sun
without a destination, only the desire
for water and shade.
We found a sight none
had ever seen before. A female leopard,
her rosettes partly tanned by dust,
lay near the track, dead but undisturbed,
with the head and neck of a cub
protruding from her genitals.
Neither lived: the female dead,
giving birth, the cub, one quarter born.
No buzzard in the skies, not one Hyena
anywhere. Yusuf, the Nairobi guide
called it a holy scene that scavengers
would avoid. Maasai believe death
in labor poisons meat. We didn’t disagree
and buried both deep enough to not stink.
Walt Whitman In Naples
I sit in the one classroom left
in San Domenico Maggiore
where Swabian Frederick
endowed a university in Naples
eight centuries ago. The chair
is high-backed and sturdy, oak
dark from surviving reigns of sun.
Thomas Aquinas sat on it before me,
large, cowled shoulders rubbing
the carved dolphins, scallop shells,
and stars to a patina, refuting errors
of Averroes on the procession
of the Holy Ghost. The walls are
the color of new wheat this noon.
Whitman fills the room in my voice,
his language strange
to Latin and less mellifluous
than sibilant Neapolitan.
Walt’s bravura, a newer humility
from a continent where the Summa
is an antique of philosophy,
delights the green ears of my young
students and assures them
no love of God is possible unless
preceded by a love of self, proving
that the past ages but never dies.