food that sleds the esophagus
needs only laughter to hop a curb
and fleck our breath with cud
halting the whole machine.
A man says as much on the radio.
I do not doubt that he is right
about the body’s narrows, where
the straws and bellows touch.
But it cannot all be as inelegant
as he says. Outside swap meets
women fish for their car keys,
dithering between Saturns,
embracing plaster busts–heads
a little larger than life, chins
grapnelled over their shoulders—
three-fifths of a slow dance
without even trying. The body
is a tube, sure, the housing
for a posy of leaky pipes,
but, still jaunty, the infirm knot
scarves around their throats.
Old men, no less slick or glad
than before, still comb their hair
as soon as they step out of the wind.
—for Adrian Dallas Frandle
In this diagram, a camel faces a goose, a hare a wolf, a rabbit
a goat: each creature a shadow cast by human hands.
Adrian is right about the last pair. Between them there’s an air
of conspiracy. The rabbit rears up, forepaws paddling
like a begging collie’s. The goat has curled his beard. How far
they are from simple camel and goose, each the offspring
of a single hand. One puppeteer puts forefinger and thumb
together, holding an invisible coin. Spare digits bunched
to make a muzzle, he smudges a dromedary on the wall.
And look: even a lacy cuff is no impediment to a waterfowl
stretching her bowling pin body. A wolf is another matter.
He costs double the manipulation: two vulcan high signs
joined in the quaint clasp of prayer. The hare, too, is a secret
handshake, top and bottom bound by a pinky promise.
For the child, there is no instructional graphic, but once I sat
for a silhouette, my profile the bluff of my parents’ hands.
Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, Threepenny Review, and TriQuarterly, as well as other journals and magazines. website