The Black Leopard


Mark Andrew Holmes

Hear the squalling and spitting deep within the mephitic pitch-dark forest

As the black leopards mate.

It stops, is replaced by mugient, guttural and liquid growling—

And then strident ear-shattering shrieks.

The scent of African violets and jasmine, rotting vegetation and putrid titan arum

Thickens the black air, dense already with moisture, mystery and atavistic terror.

The moon, low on the western horizon, huge and ruddy orange

Goes bloody red as the shadow of the Earth begins to creep across it;

A brilliant comet hanging overhead,

And Venus rising hesitantly above the coal-black treetops, fighting through a haze.

The screams continue—then cease abruptly.

A rustling in the foliage,

And the black leopard and his consorts emerge

With mouths full of dripping body parts

Like the black dog pack in Dante's Forest of the Suicides

In the deepening darkness as the shadow over the moon grows.

The cats slink by, eidolous in the gloom; disappear into the forest—

And a chorus of terrible shrieking erupts anew from within the forest behind them...

© 2007 by Mark Andrew Holmes.

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