Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Ritual Killing

Setup: In the summer of 2007 I spent a term in Kenya studying community wildlife management. With any foreign country comes a foreign culture, and in my part of Kenya this happened to be the nomadic Maasai, a culture in which cattle and children are the terms of wealth, and a culture I had always revered from home... I imagined them standing high over the plain, trailing the lions that stalked his herd. An image soon to be confirmed.

At our research station, I befriended one of the Maasai guards named Fred Kipoit, whose job was to protect our camp against rogue wildlife and rogue people. He did this with a machete, a wooden mace, and a high-powered flashlight. My encounters with him consisted of patrolling the perimeter with him at night, listening to stories of him battling lions, and as I'll detail here, butchering the goat for our team's final feast. This butchering occurred in the acacia forest behind our buildings, out of sight and hearing of all the students, the students who would later eat the product.

The experience was a fascinating one, both for the actions and the company. It was no ordinary butchering, it was a Maasai one... and what came with that was a wholly unique process... highlighted by their aversion to eyeballs. So. This shall be a sectional poem of sorts... though I dislike the word poem, so I'll chalk it up as Xtreme detail. Interspersed throughout will be photos and a video! yay, of the goings on.

Ritual Killing

The goat was strangled with a nylon cord
With no resistance. On the muddy path
That splits the bush, by an electric fence
Its body stiffened in a final gasp.

Fred Kipoit was hired as a guard
To peer into the night tar-skinned and slender,
He carries a thin rod made of tamarind
That I hold now as he collects the tinder.

A nesting pair of bare-faced go-away birds
Scold me like the bleating of a sheep,
I hollow out and rinse the ripped intestine
As the golden films of shit pile in a heap.

To pay respect for animals that die,
Plucked from cattle dips or subtle dens,
Custom of the Maasai is to spare
Their eyes from seeing juice upon our chin.

The knife dissevers membranes of white matter
Like the cells of a sweet grapefruit; at last
The eyes are torn, tossed onto the ground
Like bulbs uprooted, reddening the grass.

Stripped of skin and braced on wooden prongs
The muscles sear under a smoky hood
By orange gleams that quiver in the breeze
Of savannas lying far from coastal woods.


  1. Why is that guy in the red so angry? Maybe he's just trying not to throw up after the eyeball incident. Maybe just modeling for the camera.

  2. lol i think you know the answer to that