Published on Academy of American Poets (

Freedom in Ohio

                        on my birthday

I want a future
making hammocks
out of figs and accidents.
Or a future quieter
than snow. The leopards
stake out the backyard
and will flee at noon.
My terror is not secret,
but necessary,
as the wild must be,
as Sandhill cranes must
thread the meadow
yet again. Thus, autumn
cautions the cold
and the wild never want
to be wild. So what
to do about the thrum
of my thinking, the dangerous
pawing at the door?
Yesterday has no harmony
with today. I bought
a wool blanket, now shredded
in the yard. I abided by
dwelling, thought nothing
of now. And now?
I’m leopard and crane,
all’s fled.


Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Chang. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 12, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

About this Poem

"On my thirty-fifth birthday, three months after moving to Ohio, a man in Zanesville released his menagerie of fifty-some exotic animals and then killed himself. I was feeling strange about time and place, the threads connecting the past to the present to the future, and I was haunted by the sudden perilous freedom of these animals whose presence that day was marked not by their bodies but by highway signs warning 'Caution Exotic Animals.' The greatest dangers may be the ones we can’t see–the rustling in the woods one reporter noted months later that could’ve been the wind or an ornery tiger, or the wonderful and terrifying future which seems to get remade with every new decision we make."
Jennifer Chang


Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang is the author of Some Say the Lark (Alice James Books, 2017). She lives in Washington, D.C.

Date Published: 2013-04-12

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