Maria comes without her chum
to clean. I mention the snakes
home for vacation, Big Ed
coiled in a pot on the fern shelf
in the bathroom, dreaming
of mice. Her eyes grow wide:
"In there?" "You don't smell
like a mouse" works at school,
but she backs off, knowing I'm
wrong. I follow to the kitchen,
recalling how he cuddles
in their warmth, noses their fingers,
blind now but still self-possessed.
Her eyes stay wide, she peeps
behind the door until I tuck him
in the tank in my room. "And the
other?" Oh, she's put away
already, I say, as falsely
as with my lady, in constarnation
at the chaos of truth: Queenie lost
for weeks in the domestic jungle,
prowling aeries of books, deep
recesses, hidden from casual
discovery, too shy to seek
my touch, so deft; but a tchatcka
might drop suddenly, any
time, anywhere.

                                          29 Aug 98