Member of the Expedition
We will never know the name of the village where we are spending the night, as we haven’t asked.
[Michel Leiris, Phantom Africa]
We cannot find the elephants
though we track them for days,
only their still-warm spoor.
The three civet cats succumb,
the last after it falls overboard,
the river water too much of a shock.
Our hut stinks like a snake cage
from the hyenas while the bush dog’s
escaped with the pangolin.
We pass a young girl bathing.
She covers her vulva with one hand
and waves with the other.
The young men of each village share
their circumcision rites. We barter
for penis gourds curved like erections.
Lutten has a laugh at my expense, his new lion
charging me the length of its chain
before I notice it. I leap backwards,
much as I leap for the fat locust
that lands on my knee as we’re driving.
Embarrassing, this horror of insects.