[Before I saw him]
Before I saw him
I felt his blind cane digging
for purchase in my chest. I
was the road. Rocks, gnarled roots,
sudden hissing. I was the town
on the mountain, not drug sleep
in a fifth-floor walkup. What was death
to him? He had force I couldn’t argue,
pressed the cane stubborn into my chest.
Then I saw him: screen door open,
cancer body in thin pajamas,
snow up to his knees, smiling.
brainbud within the bud,
fist unopened, spine
curled like a question
was it? Dark clot
squiggle of ink
curdled in seawater,
old round stone
flung into my pond.
The baby’s fastened to his mother’s stomach
chewing seeds, high up in liquid heat. Blow darts
in hollowed shafts of cane make the best monkey-hunting––
so quiet you can drop two or three before they hear.
The meat’s tough as rubber and smells like rot.
It’s hard stripping off their fur with a knife,
piling them pink and naked, set to boil. Some nights
in green hell there’s nothing to eat but a bowl of thin
monkey broth. Some nights Cook howls in his sleep
as they come toward him whinnying, raising their knife.
Joan Larkin’s new poetry collection is Blue Hanuman, published in 2014 from Hanging Loose Press. Among her previous books, My Body: New and Selected Poems received the Audre Lorde Award. She is currently the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer in Residence at Smith College.