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Poets love to use animals as metaphors. But sometimes they can be just animals, lovingly observed. I wrote this poem about the first lion kill I witnessed, at Madikwe.

Portrait of three lions

Huge-pawed, cautious,
headed for the shreds
of kill: two cubs,
a lioness.

Black-tipped ears and tail:
a luminous negative.

They trudge until the scent comes.
One’s muzzle browned
with old blood, one’s with rouge.

They have made up
for us: a garish theatre.

Sunset meat
all crimson,
as around them light
is flattening, going
grey. We sit a metre

away and watch.
Just six months shy
of outright
abandonment, these cubs
act up, impress

the passive lioness.
They do not know
how hard it’s going to get,
that raw inheritance.

Rictus of kills
remembered, in a donga.

We watch them play,
now stronger for the feed.

And then we mark the moon;
those threatening hills.

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