Walking Up To It All The Time
Because I have just clambered
through scree like ballbearings,
risking a thousand foot fall,
I rest in the shade of a high desert juniper,
its trunk the strands of a good pot roast or
the confusion of husks after you've shucked corn.
The juniper's horizontal branches
support a standing line of limbs
like the banzai out front at the grocery.
I brace my feet against the juniper’s gray root,
having nearly reached the top of Kitchen Mesa.
The valley dead ends below me.
The juniper blocks the sulfurous sun
and much of the precipitous terrain
I climbed to get here.
The clay cliffs at my back are solid as a garden wall,
though the rock I’m perched on wobbles,
unsteady as those I balked at,
as those this juniper depends upon.
This is where it comes apart,
for while I want an ending,
I won't send me careening,
or shame myself with the cliff I haven't taken.
I will not liken myself to this wrecked but living juniper,
nor reveal that the dead branch at my breastbone
will stab me through the heart.
I will continue gazing down my path,
each cranky, dubious step,
and I will keep walking up to it,
I will keep writing my poem.
After the Primate House Demolition
for Bobo, the gorilla who lived in the Primate
House at the Woodland Park Zoo from 1953 to 1968
“He always looked at people because
he was always looking for us.”
- Jean Lowman, Bobo’s Surrogate Mother, 1951-53
We could see him anytime, hoisting
himself to the tire swing that hung from
a phony tree or pacing the green cement.
He made faces, pounded his leather chest,
uncurled his hairy brown fingers with
a tenderness that made me ashamed
of the glass. When the older kids jeered
at him, he hunched with his back to us.
Everyone knew he’d lived in a house,
worn human clothes and shoes,
eaten human food. He was almost
one of us, that’s why they bullied him.
I thought we knew each other:
how frightened we were, how lonely.