A child is swaddled to his mother’s breast

as she walks a path with a pail of water

balanced on her head. One hand on the lip of it, to steady.

One hand using a branch to sweep the path

of native night, where any sort of beast might wander,

surprised by life on an evening so still and deep and blue.

The sound of water: croaking frogs, insects singing

their medley of attraction. The kiss of a ripple

on the rocks of the shore, interrupting

the hushing of the reeds. Ripples from the rise

of a hippo crown, deep rumble, trembling droplets

of water on the breach. There are no colors:

only black, white, brown earth, blue night,

and the hippo’s yellow eyes turned up at the moon.

Comforted, they close

as he tucks below slow sheets of river.

What is not mentioned among the herd, wallowing

through the heat of the day, is the split second of panic

when, too long submerged, the hippo begins to question

whether it has gone – that pale god beyond the trees,

floating the unencumbered sky. There is nothing

in the chirp, grunt, and bellow of their language, to represent

his love for native drums, his crooked teeth, the meager

gristle on his bone. Soon, he will understand Mozart, Chopin,

in his own way: the placement of snipe on a knotted branch,

the chatter of black-bellied storm-petrels in the aria of river,

a muted roar from savannah, and the profound bass of hippo,

who will navigate paths deliberately, for a fear equivalent

to lunar-desertion: the lightening whack

of an angry mother walking.


Jim Davis is a graduate of Knox College and now lives, writes, and paints in Chicago. Jim edits the North Chicago Review, and his work has appeared in After Hours, Blue Mesa Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Ante Review, Chiron Review, and Contemporary American Voices, among others. Jim will see two of his collections go to print in 2012: Lead, Then Gold (unbound content) and Elements of Course: Eleven Crafty Abstractions (Mi-te Press)



Copyright 2009