Hippopotamus College

A Christmas tree falls into
the secret urban river, but

she’s lucubrating at night fall
about sea monsters on campus
potamusly swimming
in jelly jetsam lights
pine needles and all

But a hip hippo studies in studio
Christmas night at her river university
having horse sense to never forget
to avoid a tree and to remember the
elephant in the hippocampus annex

On Sand and Steps

On Sand and Steps

After hurricane Sandy
nothing felt real for me

She said to
turn off my flashlight
because the looters she knew
would know she left her apartment
if they saw her in my light

But I was clumsy in the dark
invisible and not real, not able
to keep blind rhythm masterfully
for unreal walking in the dark, and
I fell at the bottom of the stairs
flying like a fledgling on nested steps
catching my foot on an invisible edge

My thigh hurt from a pull
because I was unreal, ungraceful

I was without power
dark and hungry, looking for
hurricane charms.

None could wash away
Sandy sorrow and surges
when too many steps
needed to be taken urgently.

She used to find me charming
thought I was her good luck charm
but for a while now
I’ve just been used

Without power
dark and hungry
hurricane charms
were hard to find.

She knows everyone but me, and
I suppose I used to be charming

She needed to charge her phone
to talk to her real friends
in the real world

Seems that I, being unreal,
can’t see in the dark,
missed a step,
fell, and
we went to
charge her cell phone
near the security booth
where they hide guards
and do nothing, a light light
house like Potemkin’s façade

There was a generator at the booth
where she could charge her cell phone
talk to her real friends
in the real world

Unreal in the dark
without heat
without hot water
wet faces are not washed
dirty, filthy tides cry, but

I decided
the ocean is more beautiful
and magnificent than the mud
of the tidal marauders, and
the seagulls sang more sweetly
than the people on the street
as I wandered alone through debris
on the beach with flashlight on for me
watching a Dredge pipe spray
new sand for replenishment
new food for seagulls, and
food for thought that
wiggled like worms and clam bits

A few skillful birds caught
long pieces of food
and each had
five other birds attack it

A few snatched little pieces
that they ate surreptitiously

Some just enough
for air-to-air to beak combat

Many got none and
one stood away from
the main torrent of muddy water
not seeming to care
wading without waiting

I mumbled you’ll never
get anything that way

It barked at me

Why did you bark?
I blurted

If I chirped
would you pay attention?

It knew a good sand bar
so it flew and landed
flew and landed
so I could follow it

I walked across some rocks
onto a sand bar bizarre, and
an unopened bottle of whiskey
freely floated onto the bar to a stop

I poured some rye
into the whiskey’s cap
let the seagull drink
and wink at me as I
drank from the bottle

Foam rose
time to go

Alone with a thought
it seemed more articulate
than a parrot distraught; thus
it bravely rested on my shoulder
and I brought it home

I was so cold but
I lit the oven aglow
and put up some water
to boil, bravissimo

It asked me to open
cans of clams and sardines
which I gladly did, amen
seeing as I needed an ending
to the orphan joke: a man
walked into a bar along with
a barking seagull, a chirping dog
a priest, and the bartender spoke…

I thought I had been quite a good host
but then it asked if I could
charge its cell phone…

That’s when I cooked it.
It tasted like chicken in wine
blessed by a priest and a bartender.

She knew every storm but me, and
I suppose I was often a placid lake
but now I have angry ripples
and the tides will never seem the same

— Douglas Gilbert

By the Rules

I knew a young upper class talking cat
who went to a trés chic hospital
with all the most enlightened accommodations:

they had singers and musicians
comics, spiritual healers and
shamans of all kinds
chanters and meditators

But they had manuals
for what to do for every contingency

Despite all, the cat reported some anxiety

That’s when after consulting the manual,
they brought in the therapy dog

The healers all got bitten and scratched
but they prayed with ferocity

The cat went elsewhere for a face lift
and the dog did stand-up comedy
in a club that bars all cats

Avian Translation

I’ve always wanted to speak
to the smaller birds, so
I’ve done a lot of weird whistling

Sometimes a little birdie cocks her head
and tries to see if I’m a threat or a bird benevolent,
but I’m neither a mate nor predator, just
a conversationalist

So I whistle something which means
“give tomatoes to Owls, like Caesar.”

And she says, “Huh, what? And
for a Human you don’t look so bad
even though you have no feathers.
Why is it that you can’t fly?
It’s so easy.”

And I said, “Why is it that
you can’t speak and write novels.”

“Well, then,” it said, “have you written one lately?”

And I said, “Um, no…”

And it said in a way that I think it meant kindly that
I was a birdbrain.
    Books by Douglas Gilbert
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