I remember peeping in at his skyscraper room
and seeing him fast asleep. My little man.
I’d been in Manhattan a week,
making my plans; staying at 2 quiet hotels
in the Village, where people were used to strangers
and more or less left you alone. To this day
I’m especially fond of pastrami on rye.
I digress. As you see, this island’s a paradise.
He’d arrived, my man, with a documentary team
to make a film. (There’s a particular toad
that lays its eggs only here.) I found him alone
in a clearing, scooped him up in my palm,
and held his wriggling, shouting life till he calmed.
For me, it was absolutely love at first sight.
I’d been so lonely. Long nights in the heat
of my own pelt, rumbling an animal blues.
All right, he was small, but perfectly formed
and gorgeous. There were things he could do
for me with the sweet finesse of those hands
that no gorilla could. I swore in my huge heart
to follow him then to the ends of the earth.
For he wouldn’t stay here. He was nervous.
I’d go to his camp each night at dusk,
crouch by the delicate tents, and wait. His colleagues
always sent him out pretty quick. He’d climb
into my open hand, sit down; and then I’d gently pick
at his shirt and his trews, peel him, put
the tip of my tongue to the grape of his flesh.
Bliss. But when he’d finished his prize-winning film,
he packed his case; hopped up and down
on my heartline, miming the flight back home
to New York. Big metal bird. Didn’t he know
I could swat his plane from these skies like a gnat?
But I let him go, my man. I watched him fly
into the sun as I thumped at my breast, distraught.
I lasted a month. I slept for a week,
then woke to binge for a fortnight. I didn’t wash.
The parrots clacked their migraine chant.
The swinging monkeys whinged. Fevered, I drank
handfuls of river right by the spot where he’d bathed.
I bled with a fat, red moon rolled on the jungle roof.
And after that, I decided to get him back.
So I came to sail up the Hudson one June night,
with the New York skyline a concrete rainforest
of light; and felt, lovesick and vast, the first
glimmer of hope in weeks. I was discreet, prowled
those streets in darkness, pressing my passionate eye
to a thousand windows, each with its modest peep-show
of boredom or pain, of drama, consolation, remorse.
I found him, of course. At 3 a.m. on a Sunday,
dreaming alone in his single bed; over his lovely head
a blown-up photograph of myself. I stared for a long time
till my big brown eyes grew moist; then I padded away
through Central Park, under the stars. He was mine.
Next day, I shopped. Clothes for my main, mainly,
but one or two treats for myself from Bloomingdale’s.
I picked him, like a chocolate from the top layer
of a box, one Friday night, out of his room
and let him dangle in the air between my finger
and my thumb in a teasing, lover’s way. Then we sat
on the tip of the Empire State Building, saying farewell
to the Brooklyn Bridge, to the winking yellow cabs,
to the helicopters over the river, dragonflies.
Twelve happy years. He slept in my fur, woke early
to massage the heavy lids of my eyes. I liked that.
He liked me to gently blow on him; or scratch,
with care, the length of his back with my nail.
Then I’d ask him to play on the wooden pipes he’d made
in our first year. He’d sit, cross-legged, near my ear
for hours: his plaintive, lost tunes making me cry.
When he died, I held him all night, shaking him
like a doll, licking his face, breast, soles of his feet,
his little rod. But then, heartsore as I was, I set to work.
He would be pleased. I wear him now around my neck,
perfect, preserved, with tiny emeralds for eyes. No man
has been loved more. I’m sure that, sometimes, in his silent death,
against my massive, breathing lungs, he hears me roar.