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Hyena

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Have fun with the poem by trying this...

Find the words or phrases or lines in the poem that tell us how the hyena looks. Find more words or phrases or lines that tell us how it moves. Then find words or phrases or lines that tell us how it can sound.

Select the 3 words or phrases or lines in each category that you think best express the hyena's life-force. Experiment with saying these aloud in a way that will help you to communicate this life-force to your listeners.

When you're happy with the sound of these key words, practise saying the whole poem aloud. It's a long poem so take it one verse at a time. When you're ready, perform it for friends without the title and see if they can guess the animal.

To go in a different direction, you could try writing similar powerful descriptions for a wild animal of your choice. Then use these to create your own wild animal poem.

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I am waiting for you.
I have been travelling all morning through the bush
and not eaten.
I am lying at the edge of the bush
on a dusty path that leads from the burnt-out kraal.
I am panting, it is midday, I found no water-hole.
I am very fierce without food and although my eyes
are screwed to slits against the sun
you must believe I am prepared to spring.

What do you think of me?
I have a rough coat like Africa.
I am crafty with dark spots
like the bush-tufted plains of Africa.
I sprawl as a shaggy bundle of gathered energy
like Africa sprawling in its waters.
I trot, I lope, I slaver, I am a ranger.
I hunch my shoulders. I eat the dead.

Do you like my song?
When the moon pours hard and cold on the veldt
I sing, and I am the slave of darkness.
Over the stone walls and the mud walls and the ruined places
and the owls, the moonlight falls.
I sniff a broken drum. I bristle. My pelt is silver.
I howl my song to the moon – up it goes.
Would you meet me there in the waste places?

It is said I am a good match
for a dead lion. I put my muzzle
at his golden flanks, and tear. He
is my golden supper, but my tastes are easy.
I have a crowd of fangs, and I use them.
Oh and my tongue – do you like me
When it comes lolling out over my jaw
very long, and I am laughing?
I am not laughing.
But I am not snarling either, only
panting in the sun, showing you
what I grip
carrion with.

I am waiting
for the foot to slide,
for the heart to seize,
for the leaping sinews to go slack,
for the fight to the death to be fought to the death,
for a glazing eye and the rumour of blood.
I am crouching in my dry shadows
till you are ready for me.
My place is to pick you clean
and leave your bones to the wind.

Hyena

by Edwin Morgan