The detective pulled at his moustache,
Combing at the edge;
Subconscious stroking by a man
Who’s well-versed with the dead.
‘He was thick-skinned’ he murmured
To his second in command,
As they stood and observed the body
In a far-flung foreign land.
‘Don’t let the press see this one,
Make sure the perimeter’s sealed’,
He surveyed the size of the task at hand
In a blazing Bushveld field.
The victim’s eyes were orange,
Killers fixed by a fiercer lozenge,
For in older times a nearby tribe
Mythologized in sketch and scribe,
Forever imprinted in their eyes
Death-dawning final sights of man,
The smiling black-backed jackal,
A clue imbued in iris tan.
His body distended, and how it straddled
Demarcations of the tide,
Where the water’s spate
In long-lost seasons paralyzed
By daguerreotype and high.
With mud the body semi-concealed,
Flies on his ears had gathered;
The smell of death would long repeal
All hopeful hearts, all fearful bladders.
Grey skin scaly, turned rust-like
In oxides from the almighty battle,
Ten miles from the last turnpike
Near where the river basin dried,
The townsfolk used to fly-fish here
For River Pipe, and Barbs, and Moggels.
The Goddess of Nature created tusks
Like golden threads in turrets spun,
Woven over millennia, but stolen over-night.
They examined a substance in the soil,
The detective and his partner;
Followed a scent like kerosene oil,
They gathered some musth in evidence bags;
Secretions beneath the sandstone altar
Had bubbled before in a temporin gland.
Sometimes he found it easier that way,
Remembering former glorious days
Running with elephant herds on safari,
He used to think that come what may
On roads from Durban to Harare
Justice would appropriate
Those hunters and their hubris.
He paused and heard the elephant’s call;
Still better that than the knock on the door,
A simple summon which always appalls,
These rituals people routinely endure,
To explain to a daughter, fatigued by man,
How her missing much-loved father
Was finally found on a Tuesday morning,
Sunshine-bled within April,
On a rock-ledge by the River Derwent.