Hunter’s Prize

By John Divinagracia
Published 2019 November 5 – From November 2019 Issue

On fours or twos, walking, never crawling, licking its
Whip of a tongue the air for smell, walking amidst
Rattan-dense jungles which hundreds of baskets
Could be born from, if taken.
Dusk burns; scaled flesh gleaming like brown fire,
Tiny eyes darting, alert, seeking.
Small claws caress the soft earth,
Long tail swaying rigidly.
An evolutionary hybrid of Armadillo and Ant-eater:
Remove the sharp ears, decrease the size into that
Of Cat; permit its keratin skin to be like
Adamant fish-scales, add a spice of adorability
And awe: Here be a slow hunter.
It is armoured and strong.
Trekking across the emerald arm, Palawan,
It finds its prey on a great colony
Within trees and mounds and brown foundation,
And with its whip of a tongue seizes and conquers.
It is not a great hunter, like Lion, or Wolf, or Eagle.
Neither does it scurry like Rat nor crawl like Worm.
It walks on fours, placid, cool, patient. When threatened,
Its tail puffs like an outraged king; but when afraid,
It curls like a child clothed in a blanket of thorns.
Knowing where the colonies of the red or white conquistadors hide,
the hunter walks calmly towards the sheltered fortresses.
Too many conquistadors would be a danger; too many
Would topple the scales of natural selection: the hunter
Ensures balance. Knowing this intrinsically, the pangolin pursues
The hunt.

Then there is the other hunter. He is the greatest hunter,
And yet the worst. He is greater than Tiger and Lion and Eagle,
For he bears violent arms stronger than claw and fang.
He is the worst, for he does not comprehend his place
In the field of the hunt. He understands not the necessity of hunt,
But seeks only the desire of it, the prize, the power.
He watches Pangolin, the slow hunter, whipping at the crimson
Legions on the soft earth. His heart projects
Dark images on his dim head: where scales brew medicine
And spin fortunes, where delicate meat is precious
To the yellow mainlanders and the copper-coloured islanders.
There is a syndicate treasure to be prized from this:
So is there a need to endeavour this dangerous hunt?
Will he comprehend the slow hunter’s
Great station in the game? And when slow hunting
Pangolin is gone, what then for the dark commerce,
The lawless stocks, the treasure? There is a heavy pause
In the great hunter’s heavy heart. Knowing this,
The great hunter turns to leave.
Pangolin, languidly preying, discerns no
Change. It hunts for its prize.

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