The Ostriches Bathe in Tulsa

by Remi Recchia 


It’s ninety-eight degrees out and we’re walking,

foolishly, at the zoo. My arms are bare, already

sticky and burning. The back of my neck is wet.

I want a sexy way to tell you I just need to go

home and rest. The brim of your hat is broad.


When we moved to Oklahoma, you told me your hair

got big. At first it was funny: some frizzes

here and there, maybe some morning static. But then


we stayed longer and longer, and now we’re still here,

and we buy expensive shampoo because your hair

demands more time, more attention. I won’t demand

these things from you because your body needs it 

more, but my darling, I can’t wait to take you home.


You ask for a landline every day. That’s not true.

I ask for a landline every day. I miss the way a cord

feels, coiled around the wrist or elbow. When I was young

I would watch my mother talk on the phone while she

did the dishes, the way her shoulder propped perfectly 

the mouthpiece against her jaw. The plates never 


broke. Bubbles made everything beautiful.

We’re passing the prairie dogs now. One animal

digs alone, planting his face in the ground and wailing

his everything into the dirt. He’s building a home

in the middle of nowhere. 


The sun sinks through his coat. The air is quiet. 

Anything that should be making noise

sleeps now. They’ll eat later. I’m still not sure

how to feed us. Where do you buy food with no money?


Your parents think I’ve got a plan, but I don’t, and we

are hungry, and we are young. Black asphalt

absorbs our footprints—a clean break from voyeur to nothing.


I think I’d like to be a fossil one day, have a scientist

break through my crust, my grief housed in bones.


I want her to peel through my remains and use me

for science. And before I can say your name and ask you

to take up chemistry, we make a wrong turn and approach huge

birds with shaggy brown-feathered shoulder blades. One ostrich

stares at us, unblinking. But the sun goes behind

us for one glorious second, and I see his friends,


also enormous and feathered with naked legs, eyes

like scales on a sunken ship, and they dance

in the unfathomable shade. A zookeeper stands above

and sprays their backs with a thick hose, and I see


everything I have ever wanted to see, both of us drenched

in sweat but stuck in place mere feet from the entrance, four

deadly birds rolling in pleasure, and then you’re laughing

and I’m laughing and I almost run into the enclosure, into the rain.


back to University & College Poetry Prizes