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Three Poems

A Florida man ‘thumbed’ an alligator in the eye to rescue his dog from a ‘death roll’ (Or this is how we say “I love you”)

When he gets around to the duty of fathers, you can hear David Attenborough’s voice raise its eyebrows, amused by an accident: see how the fox takes to his new role, teaches his kits to tumble and crouch; this is joy, David suggests, this is survival. Or, the explosive awe (cue the swelling soundtrack) of the golden seahorse, rocking forward to spray life from his stomach: even fathers are capable of beauty, if only in the aftermath. Last week, my father sent me hyperlinks about alligators chasing customers in the drive thru at Wendy’s, a Florida Man diving in after his dog to twirl in a man-made lake, his thumb cocked and ready to penetrate the jelly of the reptile’s eye. I didn’t think of my father, his grey, green eyes peering above the surface of our dinner conversations, scooping another plateful of Green Giant peas, nor the way he will sit inert, staring ahead, waiting, sunning in the comfort of his thoughts. I thought of hatched eggs, a nest ruined by thrashing and force, an alligator carrying its young across water in an open mouth, hearing their small, trilling voices, the way they rest on the tender muscle of their father’s tongue, a view of the world through jagged teeth.


On David Attenborough’s possibility of grief without anthropomorphising 

The problem for the scriptwriter is being human, desperately seeking proof in the lay of a trunk, the nudge of a mother’s foot against her child’s cracked hide lying in the dust and drought, flies swirling helixes in the air. What should we make of her refusal to move, the others who keep moving toward the horizon’s dull shimmer? The stretch of an elephant’s foot contains muscles capable of interpreting vibrations through the ground. How do we measure the frequencies of our loss? A raised leg, a pointed toe, the nudge of a mother’s foot. Even though you have been gone for two years, my mind continues to stumble over your body, the quick pause of surprise, my mother’s stubborn refusal to leave your side, the lack of sound where your breath should be. When they find bones whose bleach they recognize as their own, a herd will stand in a circle together, faces gray, vibrating low moaning syllables as the sun and shadow, like a rib cage, expand.


Animal Crackers

My daughter pulls animals out of the head of a large plastic bear like a magic trick, holds them up, asks “What’s this?” A large cat slopes its shoulders, front paw extended as if to find proper footing between her thumb and forefinger. We begin with names: Snow leopard? Tiger? The plastic bear’s smile is wild. Isn’t this nice, he seems to say, teeth tight with grit and grin, isn’t this sweet? But then I remember the palm oil fires in Borneo, a cluster of orangutans pushed in a wheelbarrow, or the handful of bears emerging from the Russian Taiga’s open maw, fur matted, gummed to a dull brown, come to rummage through the town’s leftovers: wraps and rinds fished from metal dumpsters torn open like paper bags, need pushing us past margins of loss. Giant panda. Sea otter. Perhaps, the difference between accumulation and loss is a matter of proximity and scale, animals you can’t fit in your palm, two dimensional as an endangered list. Asian Elephant. Lowland Gorilla. At what point do I stop her, tell her this is enough, knowing we will not be satisfied, that even our naming, since Adam, is an attempt to live in an unrecognizable world?

Jared Beloff is a teacher and poet who lives in Queens, NY, while pretending to be in the mountains (where he truly belongs) with his wife and two daughters.