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THE BRIDGE AT TSAVO, 1898 “Descent approaching now,” the guide had said perched familiar to the hunching train. Steam obscured valley and track, dead tangles glimpsed forming patterns like pain housed in the far-off smoke where toil channels extension of an awakened skein to bridge two worlds. Hours it has taken to join the work camp, passing walls of thorn in which the animals blink and turn, avoid confronting the mystery (as though war were not raised amongst them) harboring vague monitions surpassant the hunt only in horror: no such contest convenes for sentences bred of our inner coilings. “Lions,” responds the guide when asked why many laborers have fled. “Theirs are not the eyes you see, though - they bide the night to stalk from uncompleted span. Last male branch of a disfigured pride, "they acquired their appetites from discarded men grafted to servitude. Human bones still mark points of stoppage for those caravans.” He pauses staring at abandoned work benches and tents as the scenery slows then stops. “It is a wonder, these lions. Boma and bulwark "have not sufficed. No cleverness foretells the drop of paws among us, victim’s retreating cries. Many think them devils. Sahib does not. "He calls it a dream, but I heard the lions outside my tent flap. They spoke as you or I would, breath hot upon my upturned face. I kept eyes "battened to dam betraying waters. ‘Not death,’ continued the one named Ghost. ‘I look beyond this local contagion to futures of broader swath 'tabernacle to conveniences, adamantine bonds and confinement, vivisection, enjoined disease.’ ‘I will halt them,’ said the Darkness. ‘Hand 'and foot I bind individually, with joy seize and carry stammering prey along the banks of River Tsavo to the den of trial and feast 'where waves lap black as the air, stones dank, no insulting light to glimmer on their tears.’ ‘I, too, take them,’ said the other, ‘eagerly drink 'blood and marrow, reading skull, tooth, femur, if any you have not broken. And I tell you I have seen one who has come and will, father 'to orders eschewing battery cage and cell, stranger alike to feedlot and silent spring. His silhouette comes at sunset striding our hills 'where the sparrow flocks to outstretched arm and song.’ More I do not recall.” Heat clings to fade of light on the empty platform, lone lantern hissing in sudden quiet. Somebody’s throat clears. “I say, where is that station master? Shouldn’t one of us go and see?” The lantern creaks, gutters, sways. previously unpublished © 2014 David W. Parsley Parsley Poetry Collection