I sit here in darkness,
My sentence decreed,
A lifetime ahead
But no words to express my shame.

The heady thoughts gone
Along with the withering
Of my Aged African soul,
Dust, fallen baobab leaves…

My body once strong,
A stalwart tree of ebony
No breeze would make me submit
To a life of a poacher's
Aims and hypocrisy.

Time is passing…
Just rushing by
I wanted my son to know me
As someone,
A lion!
By the time I die…

Instead, here sit I
Confined to a cell,
For I cannot lie about that
Rhino's cry…
Oh why?

She was hacked in the back
With a blunt machete
As I axed into her snout
For her valued defence…

Her belly filled with calf
Soon to be delivered
Into the mopani filled veldt
Only a twinge of remorse…
A slap on my thigh, a fly…

With a heavy sigh
I heaved my automatic weapon
Upon my shoulder…
A shake of my head, axe in my belt,
Trophy secured in a sack.

One last look at the still,
Bloody body swollen in pregnancy,
A turtle dove calling…
Then all Hell's Furies
Let loose!

Defenders of the Zambezi Valley
Were there to claim my illegal loot!
With ancient weaponry and stealth
I was overcome
Driven to my knees…

Handcuffed and trembling,
Though lucky to be alive,
I shouted
"Oh God, be kind…
I'm guilty and afraid to die!"

But no release, no instant death,
A lifetime behind bars for me
I did not mean to do what I did,
She made me sin…
Sweet lady of whispering promise…

Answering their questions, I related;
"A man from the city came to visit,
Few months ago it seems.
Wearing a three piece suit and digital watch,
He cast an imaginary net about me,
They call it black misery…illegality!"

The pros and cons were there for me to see,
Though I knew in my heart the wrong to poach
Upon my son's rich future heritage,
Timeless human greed ate into me…

Greed…it lay there festering,
A putsi worm in my warm flesh
And as that man spoke,
I became obsessed,
The Devil of temptation stepped in…

He told me that I too could dress as he,
Even a tie if I pleased…
There would be money and more to buy my wife
Life's sweet dreams; a house, some shoes
And overhead shingles and beams!

Education for my son…
He knew highly placed people
Who would vouch for me
"Man, don't you see?
It's all so easy!" Said he…

My God, my God,
Look at me as that well dressed gent
Goes blamelessly free!
I am to pay the price for my folly, his greed
With a family waiting for me to feed…

Now I watch the fish eagle from my square of light;
Soaring high in African skies,
On outstretched wing,
He sings in innocent song…
And lives in places where I no longer belong.

A lifetime ahead,
But no words…
The thoughts gone in the haze,
No sleep at nights where ghosts of
Rhino stalk me with bloodied mien,
And warders affect total disdain!

The pain will never stop,
Guilt never go…
For in my heart I know
Where the wide rivers flow,
They sit…

My family await my return on the far banks;
Smoking fish on a wood fire,
Not knowing it is my spirit's byre.
Oh, their undoing at my want for wealth,
May they be free from the burden I've been dealt!

Fellow poachers…
This is my message to you,
Wake up and take heed,
There is such power in life…

Follow not the path
Of mindless slaughter,
Or inflict insurmountable pain
On those brave beasts
Who walk our yellow grassed plains.

Go forth and preserve
What is not ours to take.
Enough of our plunder and rape
Of living prehistoric innocence,
Leaving only hatred in our wake!

Let our sons proudly oversee
The strutting of the vulnerable giants
Dressed in their grey armoury…
Take heed before it is too late…
For they too have a right to be!

© Susan Jahme

This page last modified on Thursday, 27 May, 2004