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Nature Boy

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If I had enough cages to keep all the birds
I’ve collected over the years then I would have
to open a shop because there’s only so much room
in a two-bedroom walk-up for 48 birds,
not to mention the dancing bears and the frogs,
or the different varieties of fish, the one
species of flea, and I almost forgot the proud
dogs and the lone mule, the profane one
who entered my life to curse at scribes and pharisees;
and maybe he’d let the mouse I found
forever dying at the end of a poem
ride on his back like a whiskered Christ
and if not, maybe my yeti could do it
when he’s not downtown working
security at the store or teaching the parrots
how to say brotherhood in grunt
and how to comb out the tangles and mud
from his hair whose sweat reminds me
of that bearded collector of  beasts
with the ark who would have no doubt
understood how I feel, that prophet
of change under whose spell I want to confess
that I’m a Christian of   the Old Testament,
that my grandfather hung all his goats
upside down, their throats over a bucket,
and slapped their chests like that other Nature Boy
who strutted around the ring
like a peacock with his feathered hair
that stayed immaculate
even on the nights he lost to our hero
Wahoo McDaniel who never played the heel,
he who hailed from the lost tribes
of Oklahoma, who made us want to be chiefs
so much we wore pigeon feathers
and circled each other inside a green square
of water hose until someone finally rang the bell
that was never there and we sprung
toward each other like animals in love or at war.

Source: Poetry (December 2013)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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Nature Boy

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