By g.l. bass (the ghostbear still lives)
August 2007
For Landon and Eddie

leopard sitting back facing you and head turned to look at you

He meanders,
An invisible shadow,
Out of the dark corner of the bush.
His pace stealthy,
His direction sure,
Even in the dead of darkness,
Before dawn,
He knows all the secrets,
All the pathways,
All the hiding places,
All treacherous corners,
Where the Lions believe
They are king.



All whispers of the wind,
He knows and reads them
As the one who knows
The secret of life
In the wildest of wild places
On the globe,
The deepest African bush,
Where life is born upon the moment,
And taken just as swiftly as a change
In the direction of the wind.
He knows all,
He is Tumbela,
Lord of the dark,
Leopard of the night,
And this Sabie,
This place is his,
He rules the night,
And all of life
Is beneath his rule,
Within the authority
Of his chosen plight.


Morning comes silent
Across the vast African Sky.
The deep red sun rises
A Giant peering eye
Out of the Lowveld horizon.
Heavy and slow ,
In massive, growning climb
Above azure
Morning skies.
The wide breath of
Dried Sabie River bed
Winds its way
From Veldt land
Into forest,
Into deep bush,
Then disappears into the rocky
Bed of the African plain.




Tire tread tracks in sand,
Wind along the dried river bed.
Like blood veins along
The story that marks the tales of
South Africa’s
We search and shiver
Amongst early morning fog.
We follow Tumbela’s tracks,
Where he’s wandered on his midnight way,
Stalking his prey.
We search,
We follow,
Sure he is there,
But rather it appears,
It is he who knows where
We are,
And should he find
Time to care,
He will grant, perhaps,
A moment for us
To experience his majesty.

Night slides a veil
From beneath the sky,
Dark shadows disappear
Within the climb and glare
Of the red Sun’s eye.
Down out of the bush,
Across the dried river bed,
The Lord of Sabie,
Graces both living and dead.
Up the steep banks
On silent paws
He stalks the morning
Laws of bush
His hunt has no warnings,
No mercies,
Ancient his purpose,
Beyond time his ways
All that matters between
Life and death
Can be measured,
With the depth of his
Steadfast Gaze.
Tumbela’s hunt
Never ends.
Alone, silent,
All of Sabie is his land,
Lord of night,
Lord of day,
The Lord of darkness stalks
The rising red morning
Of this bright new day.

Miles, and miles away,
His low, deep roar,
Turns heads of Impalas,
Water bucks,
Even Kudu’s raise
Their noses to the wind.
Even we,
Turn our ear
And mark his tracks
Along the road,
As we search
And make our way
Into the heart of the deep bush,
As we lean into
The heart of this day.

The Lord of darkness
Is whom we’ve come to find.
The hunter being hunted,
We but hope to be witness,
To his killing grace
Within and upon this land,
Blood spilled by his hand
Is but a matter of
A much larger plan-
Where rather then crime,
Life and death
Mean something far more pure
Than either a measure of pleasure
Or an element of time.

High above the dried river bank,
He rests, watches,
And marks all the territory
That wears his name,



This Sabie Land,
Is his range,.
From Sand to Sabie river,
Death upon the night bears witness ,
Only he determines the boundary lines
Where his Lordship reigns
Where all who disdain his name,
One day pay with their life
For the Lord of the Darkness
Will come to claim
What is his,
Either in roar,
Or in silent, swift,
Pounce upon the pulse
Of his prey.

Out over his domain
He watches
Up and down the river,
Where Elephants,
Cape Buffaloe, Giraffe, Wildebeast,
Come to the river,

Where the water of life
Flows, disappears beneath
A mile of sand,
Only to reappear again,
And continue on its way.
Where the land rolls,
Climbs, dives,
Then rises high into the sky,
Where peaks, valleys,
Then plains,
Twist in and out
Of dense bush,
Where rocky crag
Bears life to pine,
Ironwood, grasping thorn,
And tall Mahogany tree,
This is where
The Lord of Darkness,
Tumbela lives,
This is where he is royalty,
King of the night
From hour of reflection
Until the moon dies,
And the Heyna cries,
And the Wild Dog howls,
Tumbela crosses
The shadow of death
Through the bowels of
Deepest night.

As afternoon reaches it
Down and the sun stretches
Long shadows out of the west,
We find him,
He is at rest.
High above the Sabie River Bank,
Where the steepest, deepest cliff
Falls into the river.
Where the river has disappeared,
Yet, it’s wide sandy bottom remains,
A group of Nyala find their way
Along the dried river’s edge.
Tumbela rests seated,
Then down, stretched
With paws on head,


As if he,
Like us.
Is in amaze at the grandeur,
The beauty,
The ancient purity,
Of here
Where life’s oldest
Story plays itself
Out day in and day out,
An all entangled plan of life,
And all entangled way of death,
Day in and day out,
Here where he Lord of Darkness,
It seems,
He too takes his moments
To wish and dream
High above the deep
Wild rapids of the Sabie river,
Now that runs as a quiet, pencil thin,
Soon, as the sun begins
To grow fat and wide in the sky,
Until the shadow of heads
Of trees slide
Across the land,
He rises from his watch,
Gracefully glides along the crest,
Then descends,
Down through the bush,
He slides,
A wraith into the darkness of the bush,
Into the darkness of the coming night,
It is his time now,
It is his right,
Tumbela will claim a victim tonight.
His claw upon their shoulder,
His deep bite into their neck,
Their struggle invain,
The breath of life
He will consume from them,
And their spirit will be his.
Their blood he will drink,
And their remains,
Will hang from some
Tall limb,
Where none can savor
Or find,
What belongs to him.

Lord of the darkness,
He reigns over the Sabie land,
Life and death are his rights,
The spirit of this wild land,
He carries in his heart,
He bears in his piercing,
Deep green eyes.
When you came upon me,
Looked up and reached
Into my eyes,
Eye to eye,
Your intense stare,
Glared and flowed through my veins,
My blood ran cold,
My heart stood in still
In reverence to what is yours
And yours alone.
Deep inside of me,
You have left a vision and a mark,
Forever upon my soul,
Your eyes shall remind me,
You are the Lord of African Sabie nights!





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