Watching Animal Planet

by Elizabeth F.A. Meaney

 

When I watch Animal Planet

I feel bad for pregnant creatures

who heave breaths over swollen bellies,

bored with fly-flicked ears and enclosure fences.

 

You admire the devotion of coyote

forming soft dirt walls for a den.

You see them as beautiful—serene creatures,

sweet keepers of two heartbeats.

 

As we watch, the panda

abandons bamboo on the concrete floor,

ducks its head and licks a tunnel between its legs–

licks, licks, as cameras rest on tripods.

 

I laugh out loud, “A panda?”

when a blind five-ounce droplet slides forward.

Cameras jump but Mom keeps licking.

“To keep the cub clean and healthy,” you say.

 

Instinct. “We’re mammals, too,” you’re sure,

 “—milked and lullabied.”

I’ll learn as moans come unsummoned, and

your fingers find the  softest way into me.

 

Then a coyote cub is killed—

only child of the mother who dug underground.

With eyes dark and empty as her den, she asks,

“What did I do wrong?”

 

She circles the curled stain of a corpse:

a sad and sacred litany in motion,

the way Hasidic Jews rock as they pray.

I can no longer watch.

 

I retreat to the bedroom,

where I build a nest of pillows

and note through tears

the new shape my body imprints in the sheets

 

You call out news about the panda:

the licked pink slug has grown fur in its sleep.

It sleeps affably on mommy’s belly,

wearing a black mask like hers.

 

You sense me shaking my head.

“He’s walking,” you wheedle.

I hang at the doorway, require a pinky swear–

but he walks, between his keeper’s legs.

 

I return to my seat. When baby’s nose

bumps the lens, I hear your smile beside me.

Your hand reaches for my belly.

It finds the swell only you and I can feel.

 

Elizabeth F.A. Meaney is an alumna of the University of Notre Dame and a current student in the Hunter College MFA program.  Her poetry has appeared in the Furnace Review, the Northville Review, the Literary Bohemian, Xenith , and Danse Macabre. Her first novel, Bloodthirsty, will be published by Little, Brown this fall under the name Flynn Meaney.

 

 

 

 

 

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