Completely protected on all sides by volcanoes
a woman, darkhaired, in stained jeans
sleeps in central Africa.
In her dreams, her notebooks, still
private as maiden diaries,
the mountain gorillas move through their life term;
their gentleness survives
observation. Six bands of them
inhabit, with her, the wooded highland.
When I lay me down to sleep
unsheltered by any natural guardians
from the panicky life-cycle of my tribe
I wake in the old cellblock
observing the daily executions,
rehearsing the laws
I cannot subscribe to,
envying the pale gorilla-scented dawn
she wakes into, the stream where she washes her hair,
the camera-flash of her quiet
She seems to be comparing the society she lives in with that in nature, where, despite living among gorillas,the woman sleeps peacefully. Meanwhile, the autoress of the poem sleeps behind iron bars knowing that persons closeby are being executed. Her conclusion seems to be that civilization is a failure, that primitive life is perferable.