The Great Ape House by Marianne Boruch
In winter, the smell got worse. It took you like
a soup. The giant glass-eyed ape would stare with such
condescension I could feel again, walking in
out of the freezing wind, how small even my largest
bones—poor femur in the thigh, shoulder blades—
though in that look I passed
quickly to ribs, delicate, barely thicker
than my breathing. I could hear
my heart. And closer to the glass, others
come to see him, taunting and screwing up
their human faces to be, they thought,
just like this. I was quiet. I was, so help me, empty
as the great savannah. But apes love trees.
Banana, more bananas. I watched him toss aside the peel
exactly like my British colleague, years later
in Taiwan, would drop her cigarette on our
office floor, saying, no dear, they’ll
pick it up—when her tiny daughter
went for it. But not exactly that, since his
was an honest kingdom, fallen grace. The ape would
turn away, though not for long. Or he’d languidly climb
and do some nonchalant miracle, rope to rope.
But not for long. He’d come back, stand
and look at us. Rain or snow outside,
everything whirled and narrowed to just
that look. Like taking your eye to a telescope’s eye
and losing t there, up the long dark
in hope of stars. The light, always bad, mounds
of hay, old cabbage heads, carrot leaf.
An attendant would call to him from the upper story.
But he’d keep that look for us, looking at some
distant shape inside himself the way one might think
a swollen river marks something in a dream.
Or so I thought, since thinking is mostly
trying not to drown. I know I spent
too long in there. But I was twenty.
More art by Anja Priska here.
Recommended listening: Heat – Homeshake
Links of the Day: Enzo Ponza by Joanna Walsh (short story)