From Whence, Fragment?

What the Leopard Was Seeking At That Altitude

What the Leopard Was Seeking At That Altitude

“Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai ‘Ngàje Ngài,’ the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.”

epigraph to Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, 1936

The leopard here … so listen, fools

Before my weary carcass cools

I’ve climbed to nineteen-thousand feet

To turn to freeze-dried mammal meat

Up here on mighty Kilimanjaro

My bones will just be chillin’ tomorrow

As I expire upon this peak

I’ll tell you gladly what I seek

When nightfall struck the western summit

My body temp did greatly plummet

And once I reached this altitude

Ferocious bites of frost ensued

Yet still I seek one thing, in turn

For which I bet you also burn:

To simply, deftly, sans delay


See, Hem for years has hunted me

No jungle’s safe … no town … no tree

From north to south he’s had me chased

It’s such a dreadful Hemingwaste

He’s hounded me from east to west

Pursued me like a man possessed

A harsh revenge would he exact

Won’t rest till I’ve been Hemingwhacked

What happened was, in ’22

(When Hem to me was known as Who?)

A stunt I pulled in Paris, France

Converted Hem to crazypants

I’d long indulged at Lion Station

In bouts of baggage confiscation

But here admit I bit it badly

And stole that suitcase off of Hadley

It gave me then the leopard vapors

To find the case held merely papers

A stack of stories short and lengthy

Of fragile femmes and sportsmen strengthy

Such empty prose … such aimless plots

Like me, they only worked in spots

I skimmed them idly, shrugged and laughed

Then ate up every page and draft

Well, Hem found out his manuscripts

Had passed this leopard’s whiskered lipts

And I, from there, to meet my fate

Did not have long to Hemingwait

For Hem, with fury incandescent

From Yucca Flat to Fertile Crescent

From mountain-top to ocean floor

Let slip the dogs of Hemingwar!

And Heaven’s rafters belled and sang

As out burst Hem with sharpened fang!

My feasting on his written work

Had made me full, and him berserk!

He tracked me down without relent

His thoughts on darkest vengeance bent

And all of Hell’s foundations shook

As Hem closed in to shut my book!


He swore he’d leave me chopped and diced!

He’d rend my flesh and flense my coat

And rip my soul right out my throat!

My skull he’d split, my brains he’d dash!

My guts he’d pound to leopard hash!

He’d make my slaughter slow and gory

Then stash my corpse INSIDE A STORY

Your leopard fled in great alarm

Lest Hem inflict this grievous harm

Since then he’s tailed me day and night

His hatred burning Hemingwhite!

And though I’ve dodged, in countless lands

Those grappa-pickled grabby hands

At last the Kilimanjaro snows

Are ending all my Hemingwoes!

So leopard out … and just in time

For surely Hem’s begun his climb

Let no one call my death explainless

The marvellous thing is that it’s painless