In The Tool Shed

'Hummingbirds' he said, and spat. Winged tongues
hovered in the half-light ot their names
cat, cobra, cockatoo rose hissing from that juice.
Piece-fime in Africa, amid the terrapins
and jerrycans! Steam swirled above the Congo
of his cup, mangrove-rooted fingers plugged the air -
'Baboons? You hae to look them in the eye.' Birds
of paradise! Parrots, parattin, parakeets
flashed blue and raucous
through thickets of swoe, scythe, riddle, adze.
He sat bow-backed and slack in the dark
heart of his kingdom - creator, guide,
in that jungle of sounds, boxes, cloches, canes,
twine, twill, galoshes, jumbled all
across, through, and over one another
from roof to floor, prowled by those fabled carnivores,
the jaguar! The secataurs! Elephants lean
patiently on their ponderous name.
They come in clutches: azaleas, zebras, Zambesi.
Orchids, oranges, oran-utangs hang
from their common. lemming, gorilla, lynx
from their common O. Lemming, gorilla, lynx
slink nose to tail through mango groves,
drenched in this sibilant monsoon: moonstone, machetes,
peacocks, paw-paws, lepers, leopards-
the walls are creaking but hold them all
in that dark continent between the
Easy, easy genesis! Old witchdoctor, gardener,
deity of the shed, I grew that garden
from his words, caught the fever
pitch of his Niagara; I follow still
an Orinoco in his blue forearm veins
that beat among the talking drums
of all those childhood afternoons.

This Life, This Life: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006

Last updated March 28, 2023