Elephants at Nambwe

(after Jim Harrison)

by Elaine Edwards

Great ghosts
forest of legs trunks ears
waving flapping.

Branches crack.
Headlong I tent dive
sit trembling.

Plop
dung steams
acrid in my nostrils.

Curious face at the gauze.
I count each eyelash
in fascinated fear.

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Old Girls

by Pam Newham

 We stare into each other’s eyes.
The old warthog and me.
Her bristles have thinned.
Her high-heel hoofs chipped.
Her tusks ground down.
She’s a bit battered.
A bit worn.
Alone now.
No babies to tug
her drooping teats.
Pretty near the end, I’d say.
Perhaps a leopard’s coup de grace?
More likely a slow wasting away.
Her eyes say, that’s how it is, old girl,
that’s how it is for us all.

Baleen

by Lise Day

Feathery, comb-like
filters of plankton and krill
harvested in blubber and blood
hacked from the jaws of whales
flayed till palely naked
transported in mucky holds
of ships bucketed on arctic seas
steeped in chemical baths
then inserted in corsets
narrow slits of silk and lace
to nestle intimate
in bosoms and clinched waists
of fine ladies of fashion.

Aardwolf

by Michael Keeling

Kalahari dusk…

On rooftop
eyes pierce the gloom,
as the brown shadow,
striped flanks, bushy tail,
passes at a seeking trot.
“Aardwolf”, whispers Willem,
“Count yourselves lucky,
seen about five in my life.”

Willem
of thirty years
tracking experience.
Just time to note
large ears, shaggy coat,
a determined passage
to feeding ground
and wary acceptance
of our presence.

How strange this termite eater
of African savannah
shares hiding place and diet
with the morphologically
so dissimilar Aardvark.
A bifurcation of evolution…

Walking on a beach without a dog

by Pam Newham

The first time, I thought, would be the worst.
The pewter sea lay heavy as sluggish waves
folded and unfolded over cold bland sand.
I stood and watched the others:
sort out scolding seagulls
roll in ripe seal remains
wrestle with kelp-strands.

But months later when a light south-easter
whisked the waves and thirty four degrees
filled the beach, I watched them again:
tumble tennis balls through the surf
lift legs against bright beach bags
race together in disorderly packs
and, above the waves,
a faint voice calling,
come back.

Bushbaby

by Pam Newham

It’s his first visit.
Mocha-soft skin and tangled curls,
this miniature Mowgli who,
with the wisdom of two,
sees no need for clothes.
Feral child.
He disrupts ant-streams
and challenges fat geckos.
“Yook, I a yion,” he roars.
But when the warhogs
move towards the house,
his calamata eyes grow wide.
I scoop him up and he holds on tight.

The naturalist

by Elizabeth Trew

He kneels among fossils
with his small brush and careful trowel,

sifts animal bones from plants and pollens
lodged in layers of earth, finds
the skull of a dog-bear
the sabre tooth of a cat
the neckbone of a sivathere,
beasts who browsed the soft leaves
of rainforests and marshes
their remains riverborne to a primal sea.

He digs to measure the weight of our world,
measures the depth of heat and ice
to fathom the strangeness of mineral earth.
On his small plot I find tiny bones:
the skull of a vlei rat
leg bones of toads
the teeth of many mice.

He tells me to dig deep and look
for the shape and nature of things.

Animal Behaviour

by Pam Newham

Two Egyptian geese pass my window.
The smaller one has a limp.
The other stops and turns back
as if watching over its mate.
It’s one of those moments:
an abandoned baby chimp
adopted by a Labrador,
swans that mate for life,
your cat curled in your suitcase,
eyes saying, “Don’t go.”
But then the larger goose flashes forward
and stabs its beak into its companion’s neck.
There is some squawking,
a brief flutter of feathers
and they continue on their way.
I watch them, one limping,
one goosestepping across the lawn.

Wild things

by Pam Newham

Their dogs’ eyes are blue,
so glorious it’s hard to look away.
They never bark but when left alone
they howl, an unsettling sound
that speaks of long nights,
chilled winds chasing
across the tundra,
and a sadness beyond enduring.

Their children are home-schooled
and play outside more than most.
Sometimes you hear their voices
in the garden when it’s quite late.
Their father makes tepees out of bamboo
and their mother sews exotic clothes
to sell at the market.
She ties her dark hair in gypsy scarves.
I am fascinated by their otherness.

Then one day I saw
those dogs being taken for a walk
by the local dog walker,
trotting along on leads,
their tails waving.
I felt rather let down.
I don’t want those dogs to be
the same as all the others.
I don’t want my new neighbours
to be like the woman
they sometimes see
washing dishes,
making tea.