Gazelle Ghazal

Your life must dangle by the thread of your swift flight,
since tooth and claw have sharpened answers for swift flight.

Speed has many lovers but deserts them all,
while Famine’s skeleton wings can overbore swift flight,

and Death, who cracks each marrow bone, will suck your life.
Hooves and heart must beat your terror’s score: swift flight.

Great crocodiles who own the bank await your thirst,
while cheetahs see your bet and raise you more swift flight. 

In feral circles each hyena weighs your choice:
to lower horns and trust in battle, or swift flight.

Their hunger whittled you, and now their hunger grows,
but were you fierce and cruel yourself, before swift flight?

Be an arrow that will draw no blood, and run
life entrusted to a fickle guarantor, swift flight.


Ed Shacklee is a public defender who represents young people in the District of Columbia. His poems have appeared in Crannóg, Goryesque, Light, and Rattle, among other places. He is working on a bestiary.