Winning Writers subscriber Martin Steele has kindly permitted me to reprint this piece, which won a Very Highly Commended award in the 2010 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest. (Winning Writers assists with entry handling and promotion for this contest; read the latest winners here.) Born in South Africa and currently a resident of Florida, Martin is a prolific author of poetry and flash fiction characterized by lush imagery and surreal plot twists. “The Girls in the Tree” especially appealed to me because I’m writing a novel-in-progress about a fashion photographer, who would have loved to take part in the scene below.
The Girls in the Tree
The tree that the girls are on is bare because all the bark has been eaten by the elephants.
The crystal orange rays splice the painful hanging branches. Each girl a blushing pink purple petal.
The lithe soft figures blend with the orange and paleness of the earth below.
The watch clicks the minutes on the resting ‘roused sun. The colors whispers secrets onto my eyelids. My canvas tent breathes heavy morning dew. The blended apricot starkness strikes the lens of my camera like an orphaned hyacinth. The proud acacia silhouette kisses the brightening sky. Now at six in the morning the air is an aphrodisiac and my loins stirs to the low sounds of jungle beasts far, far away.
Today I will use all my male skills like a helpful circus trainer, my leica my assistant. Photographing tabloid pieces for fashion shoots is a task as trying as like feeding lions with bare hands.
The girls, the models for the lingerie shoot arrived last night. They will endure 6 hours of patient pain in the acacia tree.
My eye is on the acacia tree I have chosen on this savannah plain gradually maturing to azure. The umbrella shaped top will help with snippets of shade as will the few scant leaves left uneaten. Now as the orange gradually fades to yellow the girls in the branches of the trees smile, squirm, stretch and loll as my shutter heats up from ten hundred frames.
I have chosen this tree with bare bark eaten by elephants.
“What are those girls doing next to the beautiful elephants?”
My elephant returns soon to face his tree. The thick, broad pillar like legs and high grey back reach near to the intersection of bare tree trunk and branches stretching like Lycra. The massive head is beautiful and lotus like ears twist and fan the air. Hooflike nails are not manicured as the girls’ and the grey skin loose and lightly furrowed like chapped hands is tough and reads like a symbol of wisdom. He will never forget this scene ever as he saunters from soft wet grasses.
The skin is hairless and his slender tail is like a tuft of hair on a rabbit’s bottom.
The skin of the girls is pink and tight and soft imaging against purple panties and pink peignoirs. The faces are alive with the passion of posing. As the elephant lifts his trunk to the umbrella topped tree he recognizes a faint sweet fragrance. and will soon emit a trumpet noise when blowing through his nostrils. The girls sigh to Mozart and Chopin as the music is dreamed into their ears.
The sky has almost lost its orangeness. My elephant looks up to the nest of girls enhancing the form of branch shapes, stretches his trunk as in a goodbye salute then ambles off to loneliness and no home in particular.
My shooting is over. The girls are assisted down from the now lonely acacia.
There are smiles and excitement in the red of their cheeks and the silent sighs of their blushes. The bare skins tighten on their model figures as the hazy elephant shadow and his loose grey skin hushes Westwards.
The photos are eye piercing. I am excited.
“Mixing model beauty with African beast is a step in a young life’s excitement. There is even blood on the Polaroid.”
Everything is now packed away. The girls are dressed in jeans and sweaters and bright shirts. The pink foundation wear shows through the garment transparency.
“The last thing left is the beauty of women.”