Antelo's fields, 1890 or so—
My father crossed paths with him. Perhaps they
A few sparing and long-forgotten words.
He remembered nothing of the man but this:
The back of his dark-skinned left hand
With scratches—claw marks. Back then, on the
Everyone lived out his own destiny:
This guy broke horses, that one was a wrangler,
Another man could rope like nobody else—
It fell to Carbajal to hunt down jaguars.
Whenever a jaguar preyed upon the sheepfold
Or someone heard her screaming in the darkness,
Carbajal would track her into the bush.
He took a knife with him and a few dogs.
And when at last he closed with her in a thicket
He would set the dogs on her. The tawny beast
As like as not sprang suddenly on the man
Who shook a jacket wrapped around his arm,
Both shield and an incitement. The white belly
Was unprotected and the animal
Felt the steel entering her until she died.
The pain was fated, yes, and infinite.
He went on killing always the same jaguar
Which was immortal. Don't let this surprise you
Too much. His destiny is yours, and mine,
Except for the fact that our jaguar takes forms
That change continuously. Call it chance,
Or love, or hatred, call it—every moment.
Collected Poems: 1952-1999, University of
2000. Reprinted by permission of the author.