BROWN ANOLES

BROWN ANOLES

1.

Everglades in the dry season. 

Alligator tracks in mudflats, 

mangroves reaching for wet. 

A turtle with a red head, 

one swallowtail kite, 

a brown canal of white birds. 

So much itself, so damaged, 

but when we are gone 

and the river of grass 

overtakes the canals, and the sea 

takes the highrises and malls 

our bones will join the shells

on the shores.

 

2.

Beside a turquoise pool, 

lizards appear and vanish 

on the edges of sight, 

discrete motions, 

particles, not waves. 

Brown anoles, delicate 

and charming wisps of life, 

invasive killers, displacers—

so lovely, so terrible.

 

3.

What could they give me to get me to stay? 

No money, surely, no luxurious house. 

Not here, this land of traffic and noise 

where people live by selling things 

and fixing things and cleaning things—

streets and pools and lawns 

and the tops of the walls built 

to keep out people like themselves 

unless they’re cleaning or fixing.

 

4.

The plastic dinosaurs in the botanical garden 

roar above the calling birds. 

The screen house is filled with butterflies. 

Brown anoles eat them. 

Anoles eat everything—their own babies, 

their own molted skins, their broken tails. 

Anoles everywhere. 

One climbs an orchid stem, 

puffs out his orange throat in threat.

One of the dinosaurs looks like a chicken. 

T. rex’s tiny forelimbs are disturbing. 

It’s hot, too hot even for Florida in May. 

SHAPE SHIFTING

(an old one)

 

SHAPE SHIFTING

 

Last night for my dinner

I slit open a womb of squash,

scooped out the papery ivory eggs,

sliced a green-white onion body so wet and alive

the two halves would not  fit tight together.

I made a salad of living things,

infants of broccoli and radish;

dressed it with the blood of olive and grape.

 

The boundaries are not clear.

This morning the dog dug a nest of mice

out of long grass, swallowed the babies

like little pink pills.  They slid easy

down her throat: wriggling embryos

dissolving in her stomach,

becoming dog.

I commend them to their god.

 

And there was a time I read an article

about a wildlife biologist summoned

to investigate the death of a woman

by mountain lion.  It happens more often

than you’d think.  He tracked the beast,

found its cache in a litter of leaves.

He said, “I hate to tell you, but what was left

looked an awful lot like meat.”

 

 

Grolier Poetry Prize Runner-up, 2001