Day 7: Writing with Mo

my niece has poetry homework, so we sit

in the observation dome car, downstairs

where the biggest windows show a river

‘write about that?’ and we forge a haiku

about sounds we can only see. then she

points out how the river is like the rays

in their petting zoo water tank, leaping

as zoo staff waded like some monstrous shepherd

admonishing the punters against fingernails

jewelry, grabbing and shrieking; be still

let your hand hang, open palm down

inside the water, and they will come to you

rub their slippery velvet backs up against you

trail their weaponless, zoo-groomed tailwhips

a few circle back for more. there is one, latte pale

who rubs my hand, then wings around and explores

top of hand, arm, palm again; his mouth indeed

like a pail-bunting calf’s mouth. the larger lady eels

roll their ancient eyes, glide by, some thrash

their wings, a warning against impetuous youth.

i could stay there all day, arm aching, feeling my way

into something like a communion. now, the springtime river

leaps and cow-mouths over rocks, cream brown soft

symphonic; and i feel again the delicate prelude

rays in a tank, soft velvet backs

seek stillness. rest there.

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