I remember Dunia: the Earth
Kenya means to glitter or shine, in Akamba. Our landcruiser bumps along the dirt road in morning dark revealing the landscape swipes where headlights pass. I see a pair of golden eyes: “I saw a cat’s eyes.”
We stop. Our guide: “A leopard cub. There’s the mother.” Beautiful stillness.
Then they leap into the bush. I am alone with myself again. My ears buzz with sounds I’ve never heard.
Night molts into faint blue fog outlining a partially shrouded hill. A solitary grown elephant waits by a stone platform. The headkeeper of the reintegration stockade walks forward in his pale green lab coat and cap.
“Good morning. This is one of our ex-orphan elephants. She’s waiting to take the babies out for the day. Her mother was poached, but now, she wants to take care of these new babies. She wants to show them how to go back into the wild.”
The birds awaken, chattering. On the tin roof, Sykes monkeys with white fur and black faces pose like Bob Fosse dancers, hand on hip, swinging back and forth catching our attention. The keeper notices where I’m looking. “They want to eat elephant snacks. And our lunches. They’re naughty and clever. Come. Let’s join the babies.”
We walk among the elephants. One turns and looks at me, curious. Long eyelashes. Eyes that see through me. Her trunk touches me like fingers. She browses on lucerne pellets. The head keeper absorbs everyone in silence. Including me. The elephant turns.
He smiles. “You can touch her. She’s nice.”
He slides his hand down her trunk, whispering. She melts, ears swishing. “Some day she will bring her wildborn baby back to meet us.”
He looks at the hill and sky as though he is hill and sky.
He breathes as though he is the morning breeze.
He cares for his babies as if they are himself. He is of the Earth.
I finally realize, I am too.
I want to pine that I’m an adult orphan. My parents have died. But somehow—he hears my mind and knows how to care for me: “Life goes on.”
The wild tames my mind.
Annie Bien is the author of two poetry collections—Under Shadows of Stars (Kelsay Books, 2017) and Plateau Migration (Alabaster Leaves Press, 2012). Flash fiction: a runner up at Faber Academy QuickFic, Mercurial Stories, 101Words, and Potato Soup Journal. The Soho Theatre Company in London awarded her with her first seed commission. She translates Tibetan Buddhist scriptures into English through 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. http://anniebien.com