Poetry 2014 / Volume 45

Metamorphoses — Jonathan Greenhause

The millipede’s not a snake,   but the young girl thinks so
& hopes that by calling it that
this insect might pass through   the plastic walls of its cage.
She’s a believer in metamorphosis,   in the changes belief effectuates;
& so   she refers to the bat as a dragon
& moves her arms   as if flapping her scaly wings,
all while pondering if there could be a bird so bright   as a firefly is.
She stares at the capybara   & baptizes it an elephant,

wondering   what it’d be like to ride it
as it trudges through the packed snow   of the Pyrenees,
even when the only mountains she ever sees   are anthills
popping up after torrential rains.   In her tender eyes, the beetle
becomes a rhinoceros,   the shrew   a kangaroo,
& the mouse   a hippopotamus.   What she lacks in size
she compensates with invention,   creating a jungle
out of a patch of grass   & a plateau from the curbside.

The zoo becomes her universe,   each creature inside it
a more powerful version   of its humble self:
Each pygmy marmoset   growing up to be a gorilla;
each gecko   a crocodile   but still clinging to the walls.
The grey wolf   replaces the yapping Chihuahua,
& a tiger prowls in the grounds   in lieu of the tabby cat.
& she herself   is hardly recognizable,   now an eagle,
though all others still see   exactly what they imagine her to be.

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