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One by one the animals disappeared
either shot or destroying each other
or owned by banks or the military,
the short dog, the eagle mean
and not giving over,
the terrible melancholic deer.

I admired their efforts in the face of apocalypse
and so lined up my inner animals
in a similar formation:
the happy stupid one, the cheater,
the practicing intellectual,
the yogini, the softball champion—

They looked pretty good together,
a nice cross-section of society
so I fixed myself a scotch
and smoked cigars Washington-style
and laughed from deep under my pubic bones
where my phantom penis nervously waited.

Once gathered this way
they acted like union officials
out back on their breaks
cigarettes burning
in solidarity with the sunset: one by one
they raised their hands over their hearts—

I grew up with animals, you know.

I always needed to rescue something.
I never liked lace
the troubling gaps masquerading as completions,
and I never liked spring branches,
that dripped with rain
then became dry—

There must be order.
Fold clothes neatly
and put them in drawers.
Use make-up, mow the lawn.
Eat right.
The body gracious as a butler—

As if nothing had happened
someone put out her cigarette
and sad as a Chihuahua
said, "Heavy rustling of needles. Uplifted branches—
their shapes offer them up
but then they struggle against their shape—"

—no one speaks like that

I turned away.
When I looked back
she was gone
like the animals. No!
"When I looked back she was laughing,"

Yes, like that,
as though she actually
saw something in the trees
like a sign fortune tellers had posted
giving up their charade:
be prepared for no answer

or maybe,
be prepared for I.V.s and a crowd in the ward
an approximation
of a conclusion— a body’s knowledge here and there
then changed into
anything else—


Joelle Hann


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 03-JAN 04

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