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“Shooting Antelope” by Dennis Webster

“Shooting Antelope” by Dennis Webster

From the back of a bakkie
I watched you, silhouetted on the wall of an empty dam.
My father’s rifle was heavy in my hands 
and too big for my shoulder. 
I squeezed the trigger, 
the way I was taught.
The bullet split the fur behind your front leg. That way, he told me, it would
find your heart.
And it did. Your eyes grew glassy where you lay, staring at a point
somewhere above my head.
They plunged a blade deep into your belly, still fat with life, and pulled until it exhaled
a wind of gas that was never meant to be

You were as young as I was. They draped
a curtain of your clotted blood from my boyish hair,
and fed you to me
with an enamel cup of my first whisky.

From the front seat of the new 4×4
I saw you, on the dirt road outside of town.
You had stolen pineapples
from the farm next door slung over your shoulder in a hessian bag.
He crept up behind you to show me how
quiet the engine could be.
And it was. Your eyes grew frightened where you lay, staring at a point
somewhere above my head.
He put a cattle prod to your temple until you shat yourself.

Fat, ruddy, the doctor’s boy.
I had a pellet gun to go with my black blazer.
I took your mother’s name and put her on a calendar
where autumn should have become winter. Now
I cannot give it back.
And I cannot give you back.
You were as old as I was
when you drowned in a full dam.
Was it one of our dams? They never told me.

Any bar of soap
is the same now as it was when I was a child.
I was new to walking the first time
my father told me some skins stink and other skins don’t.
Mine didn’t, he said, even when
I was a naked, dirty child with giddy toes fidgeting in the mud.
Yours did. He told me 
soap will not lather in salt water,
except Lifebuoy,
and laughed. The same way as when I drank Black Label and he said
one million mineworkers can’t be wrong.

Dennis Webster is a South African journalist and poet. His work has been published in the Guardian, Jacobin Magazine, Mail & Guardian, New Coin, Botsotso and elsewhere. He currently lives and writes in Yeoville in Johannesburg. He tweets at @DEWebster.

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