Richard moss

The Lions Of Ethiopia - Poem by Richard moss


You are crossing the foreign sand of youth
There is no night here
No day

Dead is the moon!
Dead is the sun!

Go on with you
Living has fallen from you
Like stars dripping down the bare arms
Of a lewd dancing dawn

You that is the distended part of me
As the Kebessa plateau is the dry tongue
Of the Red Sea
Did you know back then
Of secrets whispered among the leaves
That cannot be written down
With a cheap Bic pen
Or a Cross Brothers of gold
Did you know that the song of Bathsheba
Caught in the ice
Crisscrossing the clothesline back home
Waits for a spring of ears
That cannot thaw
Even in the deserts of all days

Dead is the day!
Dead is the night!

If it is dead then it is dead
I tell you
The day and the night
Have nothing to do with darkness and light
I tell you again
It is time to get this right

That night that you know
That day
Is as dead as rock
Rising with all its might
To make mountains of death
Listless and light

I tell you
My lion
Pacing and prowling
There is no more sleeping on dusty plains
No more lounging in the afternoon heat
Your mate is not returning with your meat
I tell you
There is no more stretching no scratching no
No more idle chewing
Upon yesterdays chips of white bone

Gone is the roaring!
Gone is the snoring!

You that have feasted on the thickest parts
Did you know your ribs protrude
And you red eyes are yellow
From the poisons of the grass
Did you know there is less sprinting
Less sighing in fading starlight

No matter the endless minting
Of suns sick with light

But not this one dead in the night
Not this one
But not right.

My lion is shivering in a sheet
Dark white.


Dead is the winter!
Dead is the whisper of a light snow
In the ear of Israel
Dreaming of January back home
In Idaho

I go with Israel to find an Ethiopian whore
That was never paid for
And riding on the back of his antique Indian
Through the turquoise town of Asmaria
I looked for you
My lion
And found nothing
Not one hair from your mange
It was baffling it was stressful and strange
Did you limp back into the shade
Angry and afraid?

By hotels of blue and red plaster
Israel called out to all the whores
On the first second and third floors
Huge empty rented rooms
Cushions piled in one corner
Where your companions may have once
Red gray tongues lapping
In gold bowels of water
Tasting of tin
We go inside we come out
We go back in

Where is she
Screams Israel
Where is my love?
Where is she
My lion
And you
Are you in shade completely black
Breaking teeth on the last bit of Israel's whore
Are you merely ivory fangs found on a dark
Is that her ear on the red floor?


An Ethiope washes my hair
Her dark fingers scrap a blonde scalp
The late shadow of a dying hermit crab
Drags itself across white sand

I am soon sick with the wet heat
Of your breathe upon my neck

Strewn around my iron bed
They argue about the dead
Dying lions
Fighting over the dead
While you are already
Halfway down African Alps
And I ask them about you
Between rubs and shampoo
And these seaman and hunters and Ethiopes
These dying lions
Rattle yesterdays and tomorrows Popes
They build a platform and set up ropes

Praise to the savior!
Praise to the saved!

But if he is dead then he is dead
I tell you
The day and the night
Have nothing to do with darkness and light
It is time to get this right

Is the unseen lion the only sight?

Shivering in their own blood stained sheets
Dying lions dreaming know
There is no dawn
No twilight


Back in the barracks
Stereos blasting
Black Sabbath and Karen Carpenter
Swells of sugared doomsday
As I stand at the end
Of a cinder block hall
And peer through a porthole
At bleached buses with charcoal drivers
Waiting in formation
To take radioman to their radios
Iserals from their Idahos
Buses anxious for fornication
With the voluptuous curves of asphalt lanes

And when it should never rain
It rains

I go back to bed
In a room where walls
Rise only halfway to the ceiling
Where African spiders
Are wheeling and dealing
With the buzzing of a fly
And I tell you
I am sick of the long-winded sigh
Of dying lions
A few doors down
Sick so horribly sick
Of the crucifixion and impossible cry
Of that insignificant fly
And but for the sinking stunt
Of a purple pill
I would rip down the web
And run down the hall
To bang on the doors
Of such sighing lions
I would get back on the bike
And search for the whores
Dark and dying
In the arms of sailors
Lying lying always lying
About their love for Shakespeare's Ethiope
The jewel in the ear
Of every famine year
Commemorated with statues of soap
That sterilizes the earth as each melts
Leaving outlines of white welts.

I tell you
It is not enough
To rise in the morning
Among silence torn open
Like bullets bursting
Through one ear and out the other
Torn to shreds
By the first calls of the prayer of the Muezzin
And Catholic bells attacking them
Echoing across Eritrean Highlands
God at last clearing his throat
After a long night of phlegm

I tell you
It is not enough
To eat bacon and eggs and drink beer
With Spec Fives who sit in the rear
Of the Enlisted Man's Club
Debating death
It is not enough
Surrounded by dying lions
Arguing death
One insisting
It is life without breath
The other sighing
If you are dead then you are dead
And there is nothing left


You that has crossed the foreign sand of
The prowling lion
Of all dreams
How is it you play
In the dreamless day
And sleep
So long and so deep
Always rustling unobserved
Like black crows crowding a dark limb
On a moonless night

Is this unseen lion the only sight?

And if you are dead then why are you dead?
And if alive why do you live?
And where do you go?
I want to turn to you and ask
Of this blindness
But what could you know?
I climb back on the back
Of Israel's bike
And ride breathless
To the edge of the plateau
And look down at mists
Trapped in dark green canyons
At wind swept trees wet
With the sweat of your hide
As you escape down a mountain side
Into another night
I know you are there
My prowling lion
So I steady myself
By the good arm of Israel
And call down to you

I ask you of the day and the night
That has nothing to do with darkness and
I call down to you
As you lope just out of sight
I call down to you
It is time
It is time to get this right.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, September 1, 2013

Poem Edited: Monday, September 2, 2013

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