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The Giraffe

ISSUE:  Spring 1991
We have been called home again
where everything is known.
Mother nurses the dregs of her drink.
Father lumbers like an old circus bear
to his place beside the sink.
The plates move from my sister’s hands to mine.
She dries. I put away and catch
this triptych in the kitchen window:
Father flanked by his two aging daughters
plunging his large hands in soapy water.
He doesn’t see our faces in the glass,
the plates we hold, one yellow disc, one blue,
medieval renderings of sun and moon
which rise and set in single beds.
Mom moves now into view, takes up the broom
when something outside stirs and turns
reflection into window glass, a means
of seeing, pure and simple, what appears
to be a large giraffe.
From here it seems a table that can walk,
however cautiously, while balancing
the long vase of its neck. The head’s a rose
that bobbles by our parents’ bedroom window.
My sister and I run upstairs to watch
the giraffe’s black tongue lap the panes,
a dark bruised petal pressed against the glass.
I once saw three giraffes
penned in a diorama of the veldt.
They licked illusion—painted trees and sky—
like this one licks the box that holds our lives.
Such sad communion, yet we’re filled with hope.
I move to open up our home
when all commotion calls us down below.
Our mother’s turned the radio full blast.
She’s locking all the doors and pulling shades
as if to ward off hoodlums. Father flicks
the spotlight on the patio. Transfixed,
the shy and mournful creature stands
in all its spotted splendor. Then it bolts.


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