From the Archive: “Eclogue at Twilight,” by Yusef Komunyakaa

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“Eclogue at Twilight,” by Yusef Komunyakaa, appeared in the Fall 1996 issue of MQR.


The three wrestle in the grass
fifteen minutes, shaking blooms
& winged seeds to the ground.
The lioness lays a heavy paw
on the jackal’s chest,
almost motherly. His mate
backs off a few yards. Eyeball
to eyeball, they face each other
before she bites into his belly
& tugs out the ropey entrails
like loops of wet gauze.
Time stops. She’d moved
through the tall yellow sage
as they copulated,
stood only a few feet
away, enveloped in the scent
that drew them together.
When they first saw her
there, they couldn’t stop.
Is this how panic & cunning
seethe into the bloodstream?
Without the power to forgive,
locked in ritual, they fight
began before they uncoupled.
A vulture, out of the frame,
draws an unbroken spiral
against the plains & sky.
Black quills scribble
slow as the swing of a hypnotist’s
gold chain. For a moment, it seems
she’s snuggling up to the jackal.
Maybe the wild aroma of sex
plagues the yellow grass.
A drizzle adds its music
to the background,
& a chorus of young girls
chant from across the hills.
For a man who stumbles
on this scene, with Hegel
& awe in his head, he can’t
say if his mouth is opened
by the same cry & song.


Image: Snyders, Frans. “Lying Lioness.” Oil on canvas. 17th century.¬†Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna, Austria.

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