Your Mother Doesn’t Want You Wasting Color Film on Zebras

In honor of National Poetry Month in April, I did a series of recordings of poems from my book, Sentinel Species. Here’s “Your Mother Doesn’t Want You Wasting Color Film on Zebras”

Your Mother Doesn’t Want You Wasting Color Film on Zebras

Feel free to spend your film on boulders 
mistaken for Galapagos tortoises,
the fleshy eclipse of a thumb, 
obscuring a monkey, the anonymous 
neck of a giraffe decapitated 
by the viewfinder, or the pigeons 
pecking your trail of dropped popcorn
even though, we can see them 
at the corner park for free.

Color film is for the pink haze 
of a flamingo across the lagoon 
in a distant flamboyance,
the captured yawn of a tiger
remembered as a roar. 

But most of all, do not waste 
your color film on zebras. They live 
in an impossible world of black and white 
contrast, defined binaries, and geometries.
A baby zebra imprints on her mother’s
stripes, memorizes the pattern, follows
its map for life across the dusty savanna.
Zookeepers can copy the stripes, paint
them on t-shirts, and lead the baby zebra
anywhere by the gravity of instinct.

Do not trace the familiarity of my veins
when you should be scribbling off paper. 
Zebras are born with a predestined
ending always after the xylophone 
or x-ray. They always know their place
in the cosmology of all known things
but it comes at the price of knowing 
they’re the untouched page in the coloring book.

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