with formidable horns
curved and hooked to gore,
musculature evident in Serengeti sun,
hooves heavy as iron, agile as a gazelle’s
—prepare to cross the Mara River.
Nile crocodiles lie in wait,
their backs rippled like quiet water.
Black eyes, like hungry bugs
hatching from shadows of waves,
survey the herd at water’s edge.
A mamba focuses on a straggler
daring to wade into deeper water. Hungry,
the young bull sets his brown eyes
to where new grass grows across the river.
He doesn’t see the crocodile zero in.
Leathery mouth hinged wide-open,
jaws clamp the throat,
rows of conical teeth pierce flesh.
The bull thrashes in a death dance:
water churns with rage, murk;
boils with unforgiveness, blood.
Other crocodiles frenzy to scavenge the kill
while hyenas prance, laughing.
A young lion on the grassy bluff blood-lusts.
Only the macaques cry
while the wildebeest’s eyes,
resigning, glisten in hopeless glare.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
But even Death stares.
John C. Mannone has work in Artemis, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene’s Fountain, and others. He’s the winner of the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature and the recipient of two Weymouth writing residencies. He has three poetry collections: Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing) won 3rd place for the 2017 Elgin Book Award; Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press) featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books; and Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing) —love-related poems using science metaphors due out in 2018. He’s been awarded the 2017 Horror Writers Association Scholarship, two Joy Margrave Awards for Nonfiction, and nominated for several Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s a professor of physics near Knoxville, TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com