“Hyena Man of Harar”



Keeper of carnivorous beasts
In this walled city of Abyssiania
Where once Rimbaud sought asylum
From man’s industry.

What do you nocturnally seek
Among these deformities?
Whom you call by name,
And bend to touch a hideous face.

Do you find more tranquillity
Than by day in the market place
Where Oromos and Somalis
Mingle in silent hate?

The African born in the bondage
Of tribal aversions
Builds his society
On ancestral malice.
A hereditary disease.

Here, however, there is peace
Among these rapacious dogs
Who cower for carrion.

While Rimbaudian companions
Hide from such intercourse;
Slide like jackals
Into the glove of night,

And make there of camel dung
A tukel that is addis ababa
In the brush
Forgotten under a cradle moon.


John Coyne
November 1963



Leave a comment
  • “…these rapacious dogs/ Who cower for carrion….” you might say are still carrying-on among the followers of trumpies’. (Funny how that happens when a sentence or clause or phrase evokes something in our own lives much later far from the original description and not at all envisioned by the writer. By the way, John, good to see a poem by you.) Ed Mycue

  • For even more on the hyena man/men, see “Among the Bone Eaters,” by Marcus Baynes Rock, published by Penn State Univ. Press, 2015

  • My question is: how many different hyena men have there been? Since I saw one when I worked in Harrar in the summer of 1964, and he seemed to me, a young man then, to be a fairly old man. Now 50 years later one still reads reports of the hyena man by the gates of Harrar. Same man? Unlikely.

    But a very good poem, nonetheless, from the multi-talented Coyne.

    Barry Hillenrband
    Debre Markos 1963-1965

  • Thank you, Barry

    What I understand now is that the ‘camp’ is now away from the walls, perhaps a mile, and there is more than one ‘man.’ I’m sure you could volunteer as a Third Goal Project.

  • I totally loved this multi layered poem and lingered over the deeper meanings. I finally had to print it out to keep among my favored poems so I can read it again and again.

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