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“A Bestiary” (and an on-ramp to “The Road to Emmaus”) by Spencer Reece

November 26, 2011 by Reader's Connection

The Clerk's TaleI was moved when I read Spencer Reece´s poem “The Road to Emmaus” in the October issue of Poetry, and I was moved again when I reread it a couple days ago. You can click here to read it. After that first journey on the road, I checked out Reece´s collection The Clerk’s Tale.

If you´ve read “The Road to Emmaus,” you might want to know that The Clerk’s Tale is dedicated in part to Durrell Goucher Hawthorne, Junior (1930-2003).

Most of Reece’s poems deal with human experience. What sort of immaturity made me dodge those and seek permission to print one about animals?

“A Bestiary” from The Clerk’s Tale by Spencer Reece. Copyright 2004 by Spencer Reece. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


A Bestiary


for Tina Howe and Norman Levy


i. The Snake

I move through the meadow
in pieces. I am a mirror

thrown down, a tuxedo
undone. My scales

scatter into arpeggios.
I am all

you cannot marry.
All by myself,

with my Scheherazadey body,
I will kiss and multiply,

kiss and multiply.


ii. The Frog

My throat rings.
My strong tongue
the pond’s clock.

In my season
of teen fame,
I’m pimpleless.

Although young,
I’m nearly done.
Advance me quick.


iii. The Bat

My kisses map the dark.
I open myself–

a brochure of needs.
Wherever I go

I circle and do not
slaughter. My world

is spectacular
because I cannot see it.


iv. The Cat

I motor myself
and clean and clean.
Love bores me

and sex I never did
understand. Do you?
My lips traffic

in ruminations–
my skull a terrarium
of regrets. No.

I want no other life.


v. The Elephant

In my monk cell,
my trunk coils–
a crucifix
or a question mark.

Which one of you
unscrewed me
from the blue jungle
like a chandlier

and placed me here?


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