After a Study of Lizards

When I wake, the red gum tree has elephant feet
swollen at the base of its trunk, as if an elephant stopped too long,
its feet embedded in the fertile earth; and the rain that poured
last night, that sprouts roots on things that stay,
bound its feet to the underground.

This has happened before, but no one says anything;
one day the spell will be broken. I warily climb the trunk,
but do not feel the rest of the animal hidden inside the bark.

Its branches have fingers that reach to sky
for the blood of sun. I soak up the heat.
Leaves whisper together, murmur that they’re feeling trapped,
stunned in a nakedness they wanted all along;
to be part of the world without having to think about it.

Noisy miners congregate on nearby limbs,
rouse each other’s angry little spirits, create a colony
of eyeballs.

I won’t back down. The tree is a place for me to find eggs,
my scales for courage. I like the black cockatoos that sit stately
on the uppermost limbs. They growl like lions, fly the sky
as if they have been flying since the dinosaurs.
It’s like the sun is a candle, snuffed out

by the ocean at dusk, while below little people relight it
ready for dawn. At night ghosts flutter with insects,
bees tend love, and the trees bring the African plains.

Elephants, lions, and in the distance, Mount Kilimanjaro.
I have been listening to humans for too long. I have a hard skin,
but inside I am soft. I find new ways of seeing;
the tree is really an elephant; an elephant is really a bird
that mourns; a bird is really a bud escaped from a tree.

First Published Axolotl Issue 1 2014

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3 thoughts on “After a Study of Lizards

  1. I really love the strong images in this poem – the feeling of life and the essence and existence behind every living thing. The beginning and end – truly beautiful. You’ve really captured the noisy miners with the “colony of eyeballs”. So true!

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