We can agree there is a time for honesty
and then there is a time for honesty.
This is one of those times. Honestly,
that night on my parents’ roof after
we’d bought the condoms and made
our pacts and you asked if I was ready
I said yes, that I was all yours, but
I didn’t tell you I couldn’t quit thinking of
the National Geographic I’d perused
that morning in the can, the rhinoceri
about to die from drought so I herded them
from Africa into my virginity’s history.
I’ve come to know them as the way
I know something important’s going
to happen, go out the window, or jump a horse.
And again they’re here in this, doing
whatever rhinos do when they aren’t dying.
I’ve burnt up shadows staring into myself,
the sun on the Serengeti. I thought you
a sky alive with birds of paradise, even
when the rhinoceri first came to me and
even when afterward you said I couldn’t love,
not really, because I was only seventeen-
I never was angry for that until yesterday,
drinking on a street café’s deck. I am
sitting with friends, a man and a woman.
Another woman walks up and sits with us.
The new woman offers herself to my friend
who promptly says my other friend is his
girlfriend. The new woman lowers her price.
Bellowing rhinos surround me, rhinos
not dying of drought. The new woman understands
and starts to stand to leave but falls over
drunk in the road. She refuses my hand
to help her up, out of shame, mine or hers,
who knows. The rhinos are here and charging
for the grace a boy in love deserved. Rhinoceri
believe in a golden age for love. The new
woman tells my friends no one can buy
what she saw between them, she’s tried
for years to drink her heart’s lake. I want
to say I scooped her up, a silver stallion
crossing the plain, herding the rhinos, that
there was no time to fashion a saddle
or make declarations in the night,
that we and the rhinos set off for every mirage.
The new woman’s situation made me want
to cry. I am again in the can, reading the walls,
wishing all these names are somewhere
scratching their bellies and backs against rocks and trees.
The rhinos are standing in the rain.