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Two PoemsRuth Padel
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Giant Sable Antelope Would Like a Word with History

At night the savannah comes to claim me.
Thirty females and their calves
in search of a leader. Shaggy manes

down each nape. White cheeks
and that dagger of kohl down the nose.
Vibrissae, strands of black glass

under a pure white chin. Nefertiti eyelashes,
each aching hair standing proud
from each whiffy pelt. That ready-to-flee gaze

which unleashes the epinephrin
in me – and in my phantom rival, who drops
to his knees among the black icicles

of our own shadows – antler, hock and severed tip,
sheath and core of twisted tissue, bony spike
and tine like a bifurcation diagram

in chaos theory. What does he know, this slack
Minotaur, challenging me
in my forest of petrified keratin?

I am invincible, being extinct. He brandishes
his pair of ring-ridged horns, arcing back
like sabres. I force him further down,

rough him up a bit
and suddenly as he came he is gone
like a conjurer’s rabbit

and around me is my old horizon, filtering
grey sand and puddled stare
of mirages like bubbles in quartz.

There are no windows here. But in our silent
company of Victorian glass eyes
we know that this is night.

You can’t fool us, the seen-it-all
and past-all-care, inured to managed air
turned cold to keep the straw in us pest-free,

the DNA of our lost hide and bone intact.
We know that hiss-crack on the roof
is rain. We understand its knack

of conjuring the succulence
we’d dream of still, if they’d preserved
our neural system. All that inflorescence,

ligule, rhizome; floret, auricle and bract.
Lace blades, foaming in each lewd breeze.
The tremble of rising sap.

Gun

Case-hardened breech, inlaid with platinum lines.
Steel tang engraved with hounds enclosed in foliage.
A scrolling serpent, figured walnut stock.
Bolt escutcheons, chequered grip, etched mount,
steel barrel, twin back-action locks.
Grip safety-catch behind the trigger-guard.
A cut-down butt, steel ramrod-pipe and brass-tipped
wooden ramrod. Rotation, bore and piston. Magazine.

Stress, slide and hammer. Pivot, bolt, device.
Rod, cartridge, axial groove. Narrow gauge.
Geometry. A transverse tongue. Cheek. Shoulder.
Thumb hole. Fitting in. Hinge, flange and firing-pin.
Cylinder, double action. Running of the deer.
Target. Chamber. Sporting. Eye. Alarm.
Nut. Observation post. Trophy. Glazing.
Final, finial, pinnacle. Noble. Disappeared.

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