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  • By Johnny Payne

The Gazelle


The Gazelle


Go to your beloved, swift as the King’s steed

Coveted among horses, cosseted in feed.

When the whip cracks, it can’t be held back.

No warrior can subdue its furious attack.

Meanwhile, the gazelle flees, desert-leaping.

Hooves hot, limbs weary, body shaking.

You, the hunter, dog at side, straining your hearing

To discern even its echo. But no, there’s nothing.

At the river’s bend, rubbing your shoulders

Sun peeping over clusters of boulders

You surmise this is no way to court a lover.

Subtract the terror, get to know her.

Sitting on a rock for a smoke, you listen

To descry the low wind of her return.


Johnny Payne is Director MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles. He has published two previous volumes of poetry, as well as ten novels. In addition, he writes and direct plays in Los Angeles and elsewhere. His plays have been produced professionally and on university stages.

3 Comments


Michael R. Burch
Michael R. Burch
Jun 19, 2023

The punctuation seems a bit "random" in spots. Should it be: At the river’s bend, rubbing your shoulders[,]

Sun peeping over clusters of boulders[,]

You surmise this is no way to court a lover.

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Cindy Erlandson
Cindy Erlandson
Jun 18, 2023

I like the way the often-irregular meter seems to echo the leaping, fleeing, shaking action of the gazelle.

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jm6783685
jm6783685
Jun 18, 2023

I call fourteen-line ghazals gazelles. Perhaps it's a pity this wasn't a fourteen-line ghazal. But nevertheless it is a heroic sonnet. Which is almost the same thing.


Beautifully crafted. But to my admittedly somewhat puritanical mind the smoking towards the end inserts a slightly false note.

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