Jackleen Holton Hookway

Safari Fatigue

     On the second-to-last day
at Lake Nakuru, field guide
in hand, boots lodged in the darkbrown sludge. I watch as a lone
Marabou stork, with its scabbed
head and wooden beak, high-steps

through the ankle-deep water.
Near the white safari van,
the three women who hate me

snap pictures, arms around
each other as a low cloud
of sacred ibis—black lace

fringing white wings—skims over
an inverted sky rippled
with new rain. The marabou

struts before a nonchalant
crowd of lesser flamingoes.
Someone said before I left:

You must become the person
the trip requires. I know
I have failed in this. Two more

white vans join ours, their tire tracks
crisscrossing the muddy shore
as shrieks of laughter echo

the shallows. No one knows why
each year fewer and fewer
pink flamingoes come to wade

in this small alkaline lake.
The guidebook’s cover shows
Nakuru in its heyday,

a thick strata of pastel
shades: light sky, green mountain, full
blush of birds in blue water.

It’s gone cold now. More rain, more
shrill laughter. Yet, such beauty,
all of it beauty. The pink

sunset ruffles its feathers
then stills; the layers of slate,
jade and silver grow darker.

Jackleen Holton Hookway’s poems have been published in the anthologies The Giant Book of Poetry, and Steve Kowit: This Unspeakably Marvelous Life, and have appeared or are forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Lake Effect, Poet Lore, Rattle, Soundings East, and others. In 2014, she won Bellingham Review’s 49th Parallel Poetry Award. You may visit her website at: http://jackleenholton.com/poetry-writing/