LARB Lit: Giraffes

By Amy GerstlerDecember 25, 2016

LARB Lit: Giraffes








acting as if nothing terrible has happened
is a failed strategy you yell and this docility
has ruined and crushed us and afraid as I am
I cannot hold your vehemence against you
at this political moment as I watch you dig
your fingers into the rubble you’re sitting on
and you say maybe it’s impossible to believe
in politeness or civilization anymore and you say
complacency has bitten us with rabid hyena teeth
for being blind to the suffering of those we thought
were not like us at all and you say silence
and indifference have brought us this dead end
and you are fresh out of cheeks to turn
so from this day forward no more hiding in the attic
no more sheltering in place in the balcony or orchestra
as oboes tune up no more sublimating your rape
because the rapist was famous no more huddling
on the patio for comet-watching parties at 2 am
marveling as stars shoot across the hallowed blackness
now that the rain has turned to drops of molten glass
alas no more celebrating the chutzpah of elderly
sky divers only gallows humor now and vain attempts
to comfort the young whose inheritance we have
squandered the young who you insist are better
at comforting us with the sincerity of their terror
only last ditch activism you say will be coin of the realm
only tremulous toasts with booze you won’t save
for special occasions anymore only whispered salutes
to survival since powerdrunk clowns have taken over
the circus and loosed the lions exacting revenge
for being laughed at and that ancient mound
in the back yard you’ve thrown yourself down on
was once a thriving household archaeologists say
they learned this by analyzing their trash and these
ancestors painted pottery and kept cows and
composed songs and before that the dirt mound
you’ve repurposed as a weeping couch was just
a sneeze of rock vapor way out in space you’re going
to miss this earth you say how the sky turns smoky red
on some summer nights good ol’ planet earth home
of the meatball omelet home of media spin of whatever
bigoted muck humans dream up home of maidenhair
ferns dripping after a downpour home of snow and of
every kind of body and feeler and tentacle every manner
of sex and home of stately giraffes tame enough to eat
from your hand though that involves such a stretch
for them it folds them in half how do these treelike
creatures swoop their heads down so gracefully
bowing so low and in a weird voice I ask if you still
love me or can even think about that now and you
stare for a second and say in this bleak upheaval
that was never up for grabs so I’d like to reveal that
I went straight from our backyard to the zoo and
freed the giraffes and all the wronged animals and
conferred with them about government overthrow
but I haven’t done anything that revolutionary, yet


Amy Gerstler’s most recent books of poetry include Scattered at SeaDearest Creature, Ghost Girl, Medicine, and Crown of Weeds.

LARB Contributor

Amy Gerstler’s most recent books of poetry include Scattered at Sea, Dearest Creature, Ghost Girl, Medicine, and Crown of Weeds. Her book of poems Bitter Angel received a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. These include The New Yorker, Poetry, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, several volumes of Best American Poetry, and The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry. She teaches at University of California at Irvine.


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