Año Nuevo, California
What are they thinking, stretched out in the sun
like logs or so many gargantuan sausages?
It looks like an easy life—lounging in a puddle
or sleeping on the beach. But something’s going on:
roaring and drumming. They’re making a racket.
Loser males lumber toward alphas, rear up,
get bitten, lumber off. Lolling on sand, do they plan
the next fight? Nine of ten males never get laid
in a lifetime. Do the losers complain to each other?
Do females brag about hundred-pound pups?
Does anyone dream about dinner? They don’t eat
for months in winter. Do they remember diving
two thousand feet under the heaving sea, holding
their breath for up to two hours to hunt for fish
and eels? They’re lucky if the fish are mercury-free,
if storm waves wash no pups from the beach,
if they grow fat enough for a chance at bigamy.
Birthday Gifts from the Rain Forest
Arenal, Costa Rica
A howler monkey dining in a cecropia tree
A trogon dressed in yellow, blue and green
His dowdier mate, the blood tree oozing red sap
A river of leaf-cutter ants carrying bits of leaves,
much bigger than their bodies, to their nest
Antbirds and wrens, chattering and flapping
A pygmy squirrel hunched on a branch
Heliconias with leaves like orange beaks
A baby viper curled on a leaf
Sleepy hibiscus with pistils sticking out
from pink buds that never open
Whiptail lizards rushing across the path
Rattlesnake plants shaking spiky
yellow blossom stalks like beads
Monkey tail ferns and elephant ear plants
Rufous-tailed hummingbirds feasting
at purple blossoms of porterweed
A palm whose above-ground roots
look like huge penises, all the creatures
looking down at me, twice as old as I’d like
to be, but not yet done with wonder
Her first poetry collection, Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope, was selected by Robert Pinsky for the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. She is also the author of a children’s book, Chain Letter, and a memoir that will be published by Heyday in 2012.
Her poems, essays, and short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Eclipse, The Hudson Review, Measure, Nimrod, River Styx, Passages North, Tar River Poetry, The Threepenny Review, California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present, and New Poets of the American West.
She lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, writer Richard Levine.