Pastoral

By MICHAEL DUMANIS

 

I was excited to see every sanctuary,
jaguar, then sloth. 
The bright fluted flowers taller than any
in central New Jersey
welcomed me along the periphery
of the dusty byway.
I spotted a kinkajou loping
over a telephone wire as awkwardly
as a three-legged cat
in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
To find out what it was
I had to Google it!
And even the blue jays
so common to me
were an epiphany! Here
in the cloud forest! Surrounded
by fronds and a network of curious
bats angling toward me,
I crossed a rope bridge
over a crevasse as if
in a special exhibit on tropics
in the botanical gardens
of Columbus, Ohio. On the bus
between beaches, a whispering
local offered each seat the chance
to buy contraband turtle eggs.
He was taken up,
in my memory, eagerly.
There was a great worry constantly
radiating through my arms
and my jawbone, a fire alarm
going inside my chest I couldn’t
turn off, smelling the blood
yield to smoke
in my arteries. I was convinced
I needed to find who I was
to make my life give my life
the illusion of purpose. This is why
I left behind everything,
but the holiday destination
with its swaying trees
wouldn’t tell me,
so I Googled, who am I,
and the predictive text,
presuming I was searching for
the lyrics to a mediocre song,
suggested: to be loved by you.
Still, I felt grateful for the sudden
glory of two morpho butterflies
as blue as the deep God-summoning
blue glass of Sainte-Chapelle
in Paris, where I remained a blur
for a good hour once
in hope of finding who I was,
cavorting in a DNA-like
figure-eight before me
as they mated, guilelessly,
through the abundant silver air
during their several
weeks in existence.

 

Michael Dumanis is the author of two poetry collections, Creature and My Soviet Union, winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry. His poems have recently appeared, or are forthcoming, in The American Poetry Review, The Believer, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, Ninth Letter, and Poetry. He teaches literature and creative writing at Bennington College and serves as editor of Bennington Review.

[Purchase Issue 23 here.]

Pastoral

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