Christopher Kennedy

Clues from the Animal Kingdom
June 24, 2016 Kennedy Christopher

Clues from the Animal Kingdom

In real life

it’s the living who haunt you.

Franz Wright


It seems you’re here again, pitching the weight of the bruise you call a body

against the world that eludes you.


Or is it the sky, ethereal, cloud-coffined, that bears down on you like a carnival

at closing time, dimming of light


and echo of voices that must be the wind, lost in the sun-stroke hours,

the blood-laced ferns.


Some species of spiders will eat their mothers when food is scarce


What are we afraid of? Nothing specific, just the speed of light and sound,

the usual concerns


that the bullet will hit before we hear the gunshot. That’s how we pass

the summer, tuned


to the city’s dangers in the shimmer and glow of the captured neon

flickering in the distance.


Cows can sleep standing up but only dream when lying down


I’ve seen you pretend to be a dinosaur and lumber across a dew-sopped lawn,

terrifying yourself and others,


drunk on some potion you said you found. Mainly you slump, curl

into a ball,


small enough to fit in a bottle, to captain the ship inside toward a future

that doesn’t contain you.


Ants never sleep


If I ask, Where are you going, is there an answer? I expect you to mime

the pulling of a rope,


the shrinking of a box. A napalm shower, the rain explodes and fires up

your nerves.


Keep in mind as you look at the sky for signs of meteors,

the dinosaurs had no choice.


A cobra can bite as soon as it is born


I know I need to make this clearer, to bridge the gap between fact and fiction,

between earth and outer space.


I know the space between us is greater than the distance

between snow and fire.


I know it would take a metaphysician to rearrange our molecules, make gold

from the lead our lives have become.


A drop of alcohol will make a scorpion go crazy and sting itself to death


I’m saying, don’t go; don’t escape from the neighborhood of love

you’re convinced burned down.


Should I admit I’m talking to myself again, as it is when I pray?

It is as it has always been.


Flies always buzz in the key of F


What I learned from the mosquito: the one that hums is not the one

that takes your blood.

Christopher Kennedy is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, Nietzsche’s Horse, Trouble with the Machine , and Encouragement for a Man Falling to His Death. His work has appeared in Grand Street, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, Mississippi Review, McSweeney’s and many other journals and magazines.