The Desert

Why don’t more animals pass through here? Dale asked
There were none
But sounds
shifting in thick oil
behind the cement wall
that kept precisely those animals out

the moon was rising
a bruise was rakish on the moon’s right brain
A coyote to the southwest on the roof of the hotel
birds, nightbirds   a dog

Why didn’t more animals pass through
The strangulation of the self
to alert the family   by way of torched skin
and a thin buoy of breathing
to one’s individuality
as a service
to extinction   personal in-fruition

Is Jupiter red? One star was the question
meeting itself in the atom-sphere

Animals were parading eating the mustards
and ants   fallen fruits

a grapefruit? I asked.
a pear, Dale said.

We were in the sly suburbs, sitting by a swimming pool
The lack of animals was the consequence
of enforcement   the prospectus of looking
at oneself   and seeing an end the end
when the ark has been sent off
depleted in the mirage of heat
curling the horizon
to the contemplation of the human
on the shore

the contemplation is impatient
Why stammer   animals are on the roof
in the trees   the wall that starts at the ground
fences, applications,
hedgerows, motion lights
gates, kitchen windows,

animals are abundant
Why don’t more humans pass through here?


Copyright © 2018 by Brandon Shimoda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Not long before my daughter was born (this summer), I was sitting with the poets Susan Briante, Farid Matuk, and Dale Smith, in Susan and Farid's backyard in Tucson, when Dale asked, ‘Why don't more animals pass through here?’ Dale was visiting from Toronto. The yard was bereft of animals, at least those visible to us (the desert is insects). I asked the three of them if they had saved or eaten or otherwise cared for the placentas after their children were born. Dale said yes. (He told a story about it.) I wrote this poem later that night. You can hear, constantly, in the air above Tucson, the terrorizing sound of warthogs and helicopters.”
—Brandon Shimoda