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The Black Rhino by TED HUGHES

February 17, 1991

This is the Black Rhino, the elastic boulder, coming at

a gallop.

The boulder with a molten core, the animal missile,

Enlarging towards you. This is him in his fame--

Whose past is Behemoth, sixty million years printing

the strata

Whose present is the brain-blink behind a recoiling

gunsight

Whose future is a cheap watch shaken in your ear

Listen--bedrock accompanies him, a drumbeat

But his shadow over the crisp tangle of grass-tips

hesitates, passes, hesitates, passes lightly

As a moth at noon

For this is the Black Rhino, who vanishes as he

approaches

Every second there is less and less of him

By the time he reaches you nothing will remain,

maybe, but the horn--an ornament

for a lady's lap

Quick, now, the light is perfect for colour--catch

the wet, mud caul, compact of extinct forms,

that protects his blood from the rays

Video the busy thirst of his hair-fringed ears drinking

safety from the burnt air

Get a shot of his cocked tail carrying its own little

torch of courageous whiskers

Zoom in on the lava peephole where prehistory peers

from the roots of his horn

(Every moment more and more interested)

Get a close-up of his horn

Which is an electric shock to your bootsoles (you

bowed over your camera), as if a buried thing

burst from beneath you, as if he resurrected

beneath you,

Erupting from dust and thorns,

At a horn-down gallop, the hieroglyph of

amazement--

Quickly, quick, or even as you stare

He will have dissolved

Into a gagging stench, in the shimmer.

Bones will come out on the negative.

First of three parts in "Black Rhino . " From "Wolfwatching" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $18.95). Ted Hughes is England's Poet Laureate. Ted Hughes.

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