Becoming the Living Poet

Dear Lonely Animal

Posted on: April 26, 2009

Dear Lonely Animal
by Oni Buchanan

I’m writing to you from the loneliest, most
secluded island in the world. I mean,
the farthest away place from anything else.

There are so many fruits here growing on trees
or on vines that wrap and wrap. Fruits
like I’ve never seen except the bananas.

All night the abandoned dogs howled.
I wonder if one dog gives the first howl, and if
they take turns who’s first like carrying

the flag in school. Carrying the flag
way out in front and the others
following along behind in two long lines,

pairs holding hands. Also the roosters here crow
from 4am onward. They’re still crowing right now
and it’s almost noon here on the island.

Noon stares back no matter where you are.
Today I’m going to hike to the extinct volcano
and balance on the rim of the crater. Yesterday

a gust almost blew me inside. I heard
that the black widows live inside the volcano
far down below in the high grasses that you can’t

see from the rim. Well, I was going to tell you
that this morning the bells rang and I
followed them and at the source of the bells,

there I found so many animals
all gathered together in a room
with carved wooden statues

and wooden benches and low wooden slats
for kneeling. And the animals were there
singing together, all their voices singing,

with big strong voices rising from even
the filthiest animals. I mean, I’ve seen animals
come together and sing before, except in

high fancy vaults where bits of colored glass
are pieced together into stories. Some days
I want to sing with them.

I wish more animals sang together all the time.
But then I can’t sing sometimes
because I think of the news that happens

when the animals stop singing.
And then I think of all the medications
and their side effects that are advertised

between the pieces of news. And then I think
of all the money the drug companies spent
to videotape their photogenic, well-groomed animals,

and all the money they spent to buy
a prime-time spot, and I think, what money
buys the news, and what news

creates the drugs, and what
drugs control the animals, and I get so
choked I can’t sing anymore, Lonely Animal.

I can’t sing with the other animals. Because it’s
hard to know what an animal will do when it
stops singing. It’s complicated, you know, it’s just

complicated—

…………………………………………………………………………………..
(It’s a me again line!)

This poem broke my heart just a little.

I think it was rushing to meet someone.

I was walking with my head stuck in a paperback novel not watching where I was going. The poem and I banged shoulders, hard. The poem stumbled for a few strides. It had the momentum.

I fell back, stunned and biting back tears. The poem stammered an apology, but kept running.

This is what we call a terrible hurry.

As I struggled to right myself a piece of my heart broke off and tumbled onto the sidewalk making a tiny crackling noise like the crinkling of cellophane.

My heart was sticky by this point staining my shirt with its saliva.

I picked up the missing piece and smooshed it back into place as best I could.

Please don’t say anything to my friends about it. I’m terribly self-conscious that I put it back together crooked.

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