Hunting for Crocodiles
intro updated at TheRecluse’s suggestion to clarify the event in the poem
Hunting for Crocodiles
(Remembering Rwanda 1994)
Sun not yet awake we left for the lake,
Loose bows strapped secure on our backs;
“No guns when we hunt.” My uncle’s gait
Gentle, leaving little trace leading.
“We bait. Our cunning pitched, we wait.”
Air dry, unmoving we pass
Eucalyptus groves, pygmy lilies
Fragrant binding to our sweat,
Bones easy, strides long unrolling,
“Here we are.” Dragon flies mirror-winged
Hang balanced, fluttering shadows rilled
Into the lake, waters stilled, lazy;
“The way to tell where they lie,
look out for the burst of bubbles.”
Baits slide out spreading red, entrails sinking.
Slowly a silhouette strengthens,
Springs sinuous, stretching, speeding
The arrow strikes piercing lung and sinew.
We race in, a precise slice, sever the spine –
His life subsides, breath hollows harsh:
That was then.
Waters still stretch untroubling the upstanding eye.
Beneath among the discarded bait entangled lie
The unheard screams of half a million and more.
We cast, hunting for human corpses from this shore.
TR, thanks for the feedback. This poem is rooted in the Rwandan genocide of the summer of 1994 – 2 months of brutality in which over half a million were butchered, their carcasses thrown into the rivers and lakes where we had fished and hunted for rogue crocodiles. The killers were never brought to justice, left no trace, and disappeared, or were made to disappear before justice could be meted.
TR, Thankfully no one affected in my family. But listening to others it was horrific and the scars are still there. You have your usual reconciliation committees and the like, but its all been swept under the carpet.
I will add Rwanda to the introduction to set the poem properly.
This is an interesting poem for me 1994 was the year my father died, but it was also the year I first went to Australia for my employer (been many times since). I met a lot of interesting people there including a guy who lost a close friend to a salty while fishing in Q.
I have just read your reply to Trevor. Terrible thing. One of my Belgian colleagues who regularly went to Rwanda for our boss lost several good friends during that period.
A troubling, yet excellent poem.
G, Time passes but it does not heal; it dims if we allow it to. There are chapters in history which should never be forgotten, but we know who gets to write history.
The crocodiles we hunted were absolute monsters, and the best time to get them was when they were basking on land – same goes for the people who committed these crimes.
Gustave the infamous man-eater was said to have gotten his taste for humans during this genocide. 300+ victims and was never caught or killed. “Never again,” they keep saying. A fine poem.
CW, thanks for reading. The fault lines never seem to go away, we never learn from history no matter how hard our protests.
I wrote a long thought out comment here only for it to disappear. I am fed up. Too tired to repeat. Excellent poem with a kick in the guts in the last four lines. We really need to get on top of the comments disappearing like this.:-(
Alison, thanks for the feedback. Had to work on those last 4 lines in order for the flow to continue, yet provide the contrast with the hunt as it used to be.
btw – had problems with comments this morning when I thought I had busted the website – the comments on the main page had all disappeared, but thankfully after posting a few more it seemed to go back to normal.
So many atrocities, repeated over and over again. I think the direct and objective way you begin this compared to the stark horror of your last four lines is very effective.
Thanks Gee. I wanted to describe the killing of a croc, and have that bleed into the other atrocity, have the reader think about the one brutality and then the other. And I hoped the last 4 lines were sufficient to provide space and a window into what went on.