Thereís an elephant disguised as a tree outside my window
It bends and waves its long trunk so enthusiastically
there must be a whole herd of them coming in my direction
It is a long way from Africa
here in my bedroom
where grey light plays games with the sun
and dances like a safari
wild jungle on my wall.
Red scarecrow girl/a slip of a thing/this hollow dried out twig of a thing,
blackbird eyes darting like a Don't Look Now vision/object of derision
caught her on CCTV/this hint of a thing/shivering skin-and-bone stick of a thing
rattling about in a size ten coat, ten sizes too big for her frame.
This man/this guard/this brick of a thing/this thick-skinned/hard-nosed prick of a thing,
sausage pink fingers came right up behind her, grabbed her shoulder
like porcelain china/such a fragile delicate chip of a thing.
The room where they took her/a pit of a thing/windowless/nowhere to sit of a thing,
they poked and they prodded and picked at the girl/said they'd call the police
and tell all the world what a low-down/uncivilised trick of a thing and she shook.
This creature/this bird/this wishbone-thin little flit of a thing/featherless/
fatherless spit of a thing she blanked all the voices and fingers and pointing she left them all there
with their out-of-nose jointing and flew from the room through the back of her mind
this practically invisible/wholly derisible/breakable/shakable/bit of a thing.
And the chatter
Ö the chatter.
It seems to be less and less important
to be where the action is.
I am more and more certain
I am not missing anything,
content to sit here
above the party
watching the stars.
The air is like glue
and only the breeze squeezing through the open window
makes it less thick
My babyís breath
rides in like waves.
She is reminding me of her presence,
like a too tight jumper, we two
above the drunken conversation.
I, stuck to my sheets
and her, on her pillow.
The night is black;
deathly still, yet oddly animated.
An animalís fur ruffles,
a spiderís leg twitches
and the air dances insanely in our room,
and the lively chatter,
I. Muir Wood
The Park ranger said thereíd be a storm
by the weekend said thatís a good thing
the creek will rise up and the Coho will return
to spawn in freshwater. Three years of feasting
on Pacific fruits and they come back to starve
in the red wooded shade of Sequoian giants -
centenarians who measure life slowly in rings -
and watch them return, fry to fingerling.
The fish are jumping. They rinse the salt
from their scales forget the taste of the sea
push upstream to riffle and then lie still
in the same gravel bed of their infancy
each salmon death silver pink
a new beginning.
II. You must remember this
You asked me for news. On Tuesday
I cut his nails they had grown too long.
If I was his mother I would have known
to bite them off feeling gently with my
tongue for sharp edges protecting the
soft pads of his fingertips shielding them
with my teeth. I use these clippers clumsily
but only once he winced. A kiss is just a kiss
and when I was finished, he smiled.
I could never have done that alone, he said.
The fundamental things apply. Once you
watched your dying friend be washed and
shaved for the last time by his youngest brother.
The tenderest act, you said and so it was
with my fatherís fingernails that will grow again
and keep growing after everything else has stopped.
III. Opera Cafť
San Francisco is not my town, he said,
as though that might explain his confusion
being taken out on city streets where
tail lights flash bright from red to white
wet rain falls gutters rise and conversation
between strangers buzzes like a bulb
that needs replacing. Where would you
call home? I asked him, ordering Russian
cabbage soup thinking Pittsburgh and
knowing that questions are no longer the
thing that can be answered. The morning fog
may chill the air I donít care. He had no
appetite for cabbage which in any case was
not like the one he remembered but
when they brought the cake - chocolate with one
candle - eight waiters in white aprons
and cummerbunds sang happy birthday
with operatic grace and I salted the soup
with my crying leaving that part of me there,
washed by rainwater, soaked dry by sawdust,
on the floor of Maxís Deli.
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