by Bill Griffin
Come walk with me a moment
when blue July beckons and cumulus
roll down from Clingman's Dome, from Pisgah;
lofty skybeasts ponder, wallow,
flash their summer teeth. They wander
continents but in this moment offer us
a place among them: Canid, Ursid,
Leonid, muscular and fearsome. Who owns whom?
Now see shadows race across our bodies,
communion of ungulates with names given them
by hunters but who call themselves Wing-foot,
Bent-horn, secret names we listen for in dreams or
discover when they beckon us to walk
a moment in our place among them.
Come walk with me all day
where flame azalea blooms above
the Lenten Rose; Uwharrie breezes
animate the willow oak and sweetgum. Bend
to trace each leaf, each blossom born
from piedmont clay: Jack-in-the-pulpit,
Solomon's Seal. This line of ants may lead us
to baboons who grip their newborns'
tails to keep them safe; the crowd before the lemurs
parts to let a black snake pass; bullfrog
gulps down his song when zebra grazes
near. Deep, go deeper. Something yet we haven't
noticed? My grandson holds one hand against the glass
to Nori's hand: he sees two thumbs, eight fingers.
Come walk with me for life
while we breathe this air exhaled
by forests half a world away, then out again,
a wisp of carbon for these hickory and beech
to knit to nuts and leaves. Batir has dusted
herself red with the same dirt that's on our knees;
your blood has fed the fly that spins
the spider's silk; a yellowthroat has lined
her nest with tufts of sitatunga - this fall her brood
will carry something of that placid grazer
to winter in Belize. Can we feel
the humming of the earth beneath our feet, within
our bones, the great machine that rends and weaves?
It whispers to our heart: More life! Come walk with me!
dedicated to the North Carolina Zoological Park
sitatunga - Tragelaphus spekii, a small swamp-dwelling antelope of Central Africa
Nori -Female chimpanzee born at the N.C. Zoo, August, 2010
Batir -African elephant born in 2002 at Riddle's Elephant Sanctuary in Arkansas; Batir came to the N.C. Zoo in 2007 with her mother Tonga