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R. Virgil Ellis 


Daughter Flying 

Riding on the bench of my forearm 
on that walk in the park 
your eyes got a little distant 
listening to the big people talk 
like the long curving path or the sameness 
of the trees breaking up sunlight. 

Bouncing you a bit would get that smile 
but you were ready for more. 
When I lifted you with your ribs 
firm between my hands we showed 
the childless couple a marvel. 
Up you went, weightless, laughing, 
higher each time, though I saw their 
look bordering on alarm. 

What was I trying to prove anyway? 
What if I slipped and you lay there broken? 
Wasn’t your fear part of your delight? 
Do you remember soaring out of my hands? 

The Grace and  
Stupidity of Deer 

See the deer run, how fleet they are, oops 
one ran right into this truck kind of tumbling 
end over end in a flurry of headlight glass and 
paint chips it’s sliding now into highway litter. 

Ooo they run with this liquid motion but here 
comes one bumbling along with a leg hanging 
hickety-pickety it goes, the liquid dribbling, 
bumpety-clumpety, for hours, maybe days. 

Ah the arcing white tail as they leap, such verve! 
But here’s a klutz that runs into a bullet tumbles 
all akimbo--having blundered into one I guess 
it needs a second or third till it settles down. 

Sigh, a group of them majestic on a slope, 
motionless, alert! What’s the matter with 
these five, hanging by their heels under the oak, 
looking awfully thin, staring dully at the ground. 

There was a dance, a balance, they say, between 
the ranging herd and hungry wolves, not pretty 
if you were old or weak. How dumb of the boldest 
and best to end up wrapped, frozen, venison! 

Talking deer! Silliest things I ever heard! 
"Shoot us with a drug, birth control," said the buck. 
"Yes, and the same for your human horde," said the doe. 
"For they starve," said the fawn with such large eyes. 


These Hands 

These hands in my lap make a bowl. 
Relaxed they can’t hold anything 
but I remember cupping them to drink 
or holding them out at Halloween. 
They’ve been as busy as anyone’s taking. 
Here in my lap they still want to reach, 
touch, turn, press, pick up, twist, or just 
fan the air to let you know I’m talking. 

There’s nothing to pinch or stroke. 
My hands wonder if I expect something to 
fall into them, whether they are now just a 
beggar’s bowl. I laugh and tell them there’s 
too much self here for that—a little fat. 
Settle in, my palms, and live famished. 
For an hour, mighty monk, forget alms. 

My hands look like ears. They’ve been 
listening. Over long minutes they begin 
to fill with their own heat. Asking nothing 
they nestle against my belly which for once 
takes warm nothing that rising fills 
my tongue and lips that say nothing, 
my forehead that adds light and sends 
that word back down to these hands 
I would offer, brimming, if you were here. 

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