Desert Hyena

spotted hyena final

He asked to be forgiven,
clutched his head with long worn-out fingers
white fingers, clean white nails filed evenly,

He’d done no more than others do
but others stay on.

All was white, white on white
the pictures which once plagued him
– bright cobalt blue, vermillion,
shouting him awake each night –
had gone.

Now he moves in measured steps.

They remarked on his stiffening shoulders
‘Like a man-hyena, waiting,
beware the patterns on his face,
straight rigid lines across the brow,
wide open eyes, the furtive feet.’

He saw in all simplicity
all things wiped out
smooth alabaster, serene
above the faltered rock.
His spine he saw
white ramrod up his back
tall white cranes cranking up the juggernaut of Sin;
his fingers – scaffolds – propping up his head
javelins jolting alabaster, widening the cracks.

Genius javelin makers
spear on! spear on!
the institutions shelter you.

He had to return to the desert,
had to see the manner of things
away from things.

And the desert held truths in giant forms
soft dunes, capricious veered round subversive
reshaping, tampering
shifting small to tall,
growing to walls harder than rock
alabaster, smoother than milk
deceiving, heaving up remnants of under-soil
dust particles glinting airborne towards him
grains of sin he’d sewn in his youth
race at his face; stones of anger meteor red.

Yellow the storm
sand clogged in the hair
lodged in the jaw
thick in the throat, choking.

Scrub, scrub the land, clean the wind, wipe the air, smooth the world.

Still he stalks the desert wild-eyed
his jaw cut clean with sand
his cry a cackle in the throat
where all our sins are tethered.


Interesting fact:

The spotted hyena is native to Sub-Saharan Africa and lives in a matriarchical society.  The females hunt in packs, take care of their young, and remain all their lives in their birth clan.  But the young males move away to join a new clan.  They have to show some political sense to rise in the hierarchy of the adopting clan. 

The female spotted hyena has a very large clitoris; it can become erect like a penis and is thus  vulnerable, particularly while giving birth.  She is larger than the male, more aggressive and better able to look after herself and her family.  She is promiscuous, and makes no bonds with males.  This species is also called the Laughing Hyena.  Given these particularities, who has the last laugh, male or female?