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January 1, 2011

 
                    South Africa, 2008, leaving Kruger

June’s winter, ivory-rinsed blue,

a wild dog tugs a sock of skin
down an impala’s stick-leg penciling skyward

one gray hoof—

What makes them kneel
is their need

for leverage, paws tucked
in the torso’s broken bowl as they strip

the steaming meat, emptying the splayed body
to a thin ghost

of steam, to hide sack and jutting leg bones, deflated
bagpipes, a sprawled

marionette—

                    Xenophobia was again
the radio word of the day, people still burning

on both sides of the border. After death
by fire, the limbs

will not be straightened, whether the feet
were or were not

hacked off, whether the arms received
short sleeves or long, severed at elbow,

or wrist—

                                        Sanctuary is a landscape
of smoke and thorns; shelter, what can be seared

around you. Sated, the dogs turned
to play, chasing

each other through thornbush, one

collapsing to sleep, his fur a patchwork
of smoky topaz, ebony, day-old snow blurring

into yellow grass and gray sand, his face
blush-stained from the impala now a tilted

horn lyre, a bloody basket
of unraveling ribs.

Mid-hunt, the pack was a shifting

precarious galaxy, harlequin’s motley
mapping each dog’s back a sui generis constellation

of fawn continents
and black sea, white ice caps, the impala herd a tawny

undulating river, the dogs’ royal
fly-whisk tails brilliant

white plumes not to lose
the us and the them in all that coppery

adrenal flow. The human body always curls

away from flame, from the hand
that tosses it

into thatched roof or cardboard walls
ignited with the last

caught words of this world—Refugees, traitors, imperialist
stooges—

                    A week driving, I was still forgetting
stay left, still mistaking for blinkers

the windscreen wipers’ wand. The dogs
far behind, when I pulled back

onto the highway I caught myself
turning my head

as for a distant country, straining
to search the one direction

no one any longer would be coming.

G

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SandraMeek.jpegA recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, Sandra Meek is the author of three books of poems, Biogeography, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo 2008), Burn (2005), and Nomadic Foundations (2002), and editor of Deep Travel: Contemporary American Poets Abroad (Ninebark 2007). Her fourth book of poems, Road Scatter, is forthcoming from Persea Books in 2012. Meek served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Manyana, Botswana, 1989-1991; currently, she is Director of the Georgia Poetry Circuit, Poetry Editor of the Phi Kappa Phi Forum, a Co-founding Editor of Ninebark Press, and Professor of English, Rhetoric, and Writing at Berry College.

Poet’s Recommendations:

The Famished Road by Ben Okri.

Dark Sky Question by Larissa Szporluk.

Poet in New York by Federico García Lorca.

Homepage photo via Flickr by localsurfer

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