Mr Buckland’s Hyenas
Zoophagous, Mr Buckland aimed to devour
every living creature, on a bloody voyage
of gastronomy for a belly full of fossils,
his smile, an array of gnashing teeth.
No flood, no Noah brought those remains
to Kirkdale cave where this man would discover
the wide grins of carnivores more ancient than him.
Here, memory is a river and the sun has wings
once again to cross the sky; a new species of truth
unearthed in these skeletons of hunter and hunted,
guardians perhaps, but not of their own reputations.
My fears have always triumphed in the darkness:
in this den were terrors of vampires who feasted
upon the fallen, though not even the ghosts
of hyenas circle any homestead now,
to call shepherds from safety in imitated voices,
to crush not only their myths, and no carcass
can cast its shadow, today, to steal their words.
It is said that a hyena's eye contains a stone,
which plucked and placed beneath your tongue,
will turn your speech to prophecies,
yet what future would I see?
And I have surrendered to animism;
an ear pressed to the stories told
in this lightless gallery of bones,
the slope of the hyena, spine maned,
built to chase when I was made to flee.
Image is from wikimedia commons: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buckland_hyena.jpg It's an illustration of William Buckland with hyenas in Kirkdale cave. He was a geologist and palaeontologist who was called to examine remains in Kirkdale cave in the Yorkshire Dales in 1821. He was a religious man and had thought that these types of remains were brought to England by Noah's flood. However, he also discovered coprolites (fossilised poo) and to test his theory he procured a hyena (!), fed it and examined its poo and established that the hyena remains in the cave must have been hyenas that lived there alongside the remains of the hippos and rhinos etc that they had fed on. Apparently he also had an ambition to eat every animal in existence, which is a bit grim, but there we are. (By way of an explanation for my poem...)
Other pictures on Twitter: https://pixabay.com/photos/hyena-walking-savannah-serengeti-591880/