“Eclogue at Twilight,” by Yusef Komunyakaa – Michigan Quarterly Review

“Eclogue at Twilight,” by Yusef Komunyakaa

“Eclogue at Twilight,” by Yusef Komunyakaa, appeared in the Fall 1996 issue of MQR.

The three wrestle in the grass
fifteen minutes, shaking blooms
& winged seeds to the ground.
The lioness lays a heavy paw
on the jackal’s chest,
almost motherly. His mate
backs off a few yards. Eyeball
to eyeball, they face each other
before she bites into his belly
& tugs out the ropey entrails
like loops of wet gauze.
Time stops. She’d moved
through the tall yellow sage
as they copulated,
stood only a few feet
away, enveloped in the scent
that drew them together.
When they first saw her
there, they couldn’t stop.
Is this how panic & cunning
seethe into the bloodstream?
Without the power to forgive,
locked in ritual, they fight
began before they uncoupled.
A vulture, out of the frame,
draws an unbroken spiral
against the plains & sky.
Black quills scribble
slow as the swing of a hypnotist’s
gold chain. For a moment, it seems
she’s snuggling up to the jackal.
Maybe the wild aroma of sex
plagues the yellow grass.
A drizzle adds its music
to the background,
& a chorus of young girls
chant from across the hills.
For a man who stumbles
on this scene, with Hegel
& awe in his head, he can’t
say if his mouth is opened
by the same cry & song.

Image: Snyders, Frans. “Lying Lioness.” Oil on canvas. 17th century. Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, Austria.

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