Karroo Train By Day

Alone at his window, unconscious of the bright heat
and black soot flecking his hair and face,
the boy caught in the wind the fragrance of the past.

He knew that all he saw and failed to hear
under the drum-beat rumble of the train was not
as it had been or ought to be.

The poets were wrong: those solid, flat-topped hills,
those rocky kopjes, were not eternal; they waited,
like temples, for destruction.

He sweated on the plastic seat under his thighs.
Squat bushes, brittle, dessicated, waited
for an age of spontaneous fire.

His fancy discerned the fluidly sentient eyes
of lithesome gazelles by the million, who once grazed here
disdainfully under fierce eyes.

Life moves toward extinction, but the meek
outlive the strong. The springbok still leaps;
the lion and hyena vanished.

Humans, lazy in poverty, unwary among
prehistoric adders, walked or drove donkeys,
stirring dust on dry paths.

Their orange, crumpled faces seemed timeless
as figures children stare at in glass cases,
older than homo sapiens.

Will these survive the rapacious guns of newcomers
who live in scattered dwellings in clumps of eucalyptus,
under metal roofs?

Drooping willows mark their glittering dams.
Their gangly windmills incestuously plunder
remnants of water from Mother Earth.

They hide from the sun behind dark verandas.
A sleeping dog, a passive flock of sheep.
Rarely, under a hat, a human face.

Miamisburg, Ohio, 2013