Flight of the Hippopotamus

The purpose of life is to be defeated
by greater and greater things.
—Rainer Maria Rilke

Header for Poem

They flew in the food on Thursdays
until last week, when the plane went
down, smashed against the mountain
ridge, less than a mile from here.

You can see its burnt out skeleton
from the village’s highest hill, over
the trees and against the granite,
decomposed, ashamed of its nakedness.

Hopi, they say, is better suited to discuss
quantum mechanics than English.
And maybe that is true. Everything is
better said through other people's words.

But I do know that when we screamed
at the explosion in the sky like children,
my own voice was merely an accented
echo of everyone around me.

And, on the fourth day, the elders and I
passed a decomposed camel corpse,
on route to the plane to scavenge; all we
carried back were razors and burnt t-shirts.

The heavy-handed lesson of survival was:
I left on the sixth day, when my plane came
from the west out of the sun, and I flew
to the sunset, violent chrysalis behind me.