logotype

Poems

Encounter In The Cage Country

What I was would not work
For then all, for I had not caught
The lion’s eye. I was walking down

The cellblock in green glasses        and came
At last to the place where someone was hiding
His spots in his black hide.

Unchangeably they were there,
Driven in as by eyes
Like mine, his darkness ablaze

In the stinking sun of the beast house.
Among the crowd, he found me
Out and dropped his bloody snack

And came to the perilous edge
Of the cage, where the great bars tremble
Like wire. All Sunday ambling stopped,

The curved cells tightened around
Us all    as we saw he was watching only
Me. I knew the stage was set, and I began

To perform    first saunt’ring then stalking
Back and forth like a sentry faked
As if to run and at one brilliant move

I made as though drawing a gun from my hip-
bone, the bite-sized children broke
Up changing their concept of laughter,

But none of this changed his eyes, or changed
My green glasses. Alert, attentive,
He waited for what I could give him:

My moves my throat my wildest love,
The eyes behind my eyes. Instead, I left
Him, though he followed me right to the end

Of concrete. I wiped my face, and lifted off
My glasses. Light blasted the world of shade
Back under every park bush    the crowd

Quailed from me I was inside and out
Of myself and something was given a life-
mission to say to me hungrily over

And over and over your moves are exactly right
For a few things in this world: we know you
When you come, Green Eyes, Green Eyes.

From Falling (1967)