Hope Springs Like a Panther from a Large Boulder Overhead

by Andrew Dufresne
Wild Poetry Forum
First Place, November 2017
Judged by Michael Larrain

Drums. More drums. We’re drifting up this lazy river, headed
upstream to kill the king. He’s gone insane. So have we.
We have no friends and our enemies are everywhere. The dreaded
news-borne disease takes hold of us. It’s a misery.

We babble at anyone who will listen, “Darkness, horror, grief.”
But no one will listen. The jungle is full of vanity and death.
We tire of standing guard over valuables, just give them to the thief
who hovers near our shoulder. We smell his fractious breath.

I used to wear clothing made of butterfly wings, a bitch to clean,
but light, you know. Now I wear cast-off skins of the rattlesnake.
I’ve stored my kindness in the mud. In a tortoiseshell canteen.
Maybe I’ll retrieve it when there’s much, much less at stake.

Hope springs like a panther from a large boulder overhead,
spitting joy, clawing happiness, bringing life, and all is well.
There’s bread and there are circuses. Ah me. At least there’s bread.
And always, always, we’re allowed to rot right where we fell.

Part of the reason I love this poem is that it reminds me so powerfully of Warner Herzog’s movie, “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.” There is a dark and altogether delightful sense of humor at work here. And I love the reference to “news-borne disease” which reinforces my refusal to ever watch the news. The colloquialisms are very American (“a bitch to clean”), but hiding behind them is Joseph Conrad, ever-watchful. I wish the author would substitute some other word for “fractious,” but apart from this one minor quibble, this poem deserves nothing but praise. --Michael Larrain