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.