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Where Iguanas Still Live, by Colleen McElroy

July 3, 2009 by Reader's Connection


Queen of the Ebony Isles

Colleen McElroy, “Where Iguanas Still Live” from Queen of the Ebony Isles © 1984 by Colleen McElroy and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press





Where Iguanas Still Live

(For Kevin)

This is what is important
A first birthday picture
The rubber bathtub toy
Clutched in your fat fingers
You giggly and myopic
How important it was
When you locked all the doors
Three years old
And instant master of the house
Outside I danced to your amusement
A black Natasha snowbound
And twirling in a web
Of my own desperation
How fragile it seems when years
Cannot release us
The mystery of time
Is not important
One night you said Mama
I can hear the whistles blowing
Then still asleep
You walked away from me

Your are out there now
A man walking quickly
To another shore
I am here where
Knights and their ladies still romp
Through your storybooks
You helped your sister
Learn the alphabet
Tracing the mystery of each letter
Now your posters of African kings
Curl like delicate petals
In the corner of the closet
They are still strong and willing
To hunt lions in the tall grass
It is here we keep time
The carefully measured ticking
Like watching buds grow

We planted corn seeds
Inside freezer bags
Experiments in temperature you said
Quietly proud and so serious
I enrolled you in a club
An animal a month delivered by mail
Fish lizards mice
Jelled dehydrated beheaded
Laced with ink from overdue bills
And letters from your grandmother
Later you stood on the abyss of my anger
While baby snakes nested warm
Inside half-filled cosmetic jars

It is important that even now
Though you are not here
I remember how we groped
Hand in hand in the dark
Softly calling the iguana
Lost forever
Inside the pattern of the Persian rug.


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