"The Girl and Rhino"

The girl with eyes grey as dust, the girl with the speech impediment

wants nothing more than to be loved -- to have playmates to kick around with

throw jacks. skip rope.

but those animal eyes, sounds

get nothing but whispers and wary looks

she spends most of her time in the attic,

perhaps with a bit of crumble cake or a shortbread cookie

mother is nice, but has her books

the rafters smell of damp cardboard, sour clothes

life in the top of the house is static, and cold

she listens and mimics perfectly the sounds of rain:

the slap of a gust on the glass

the trickle of a leak somewhere deep within the shingles

(a sound that in fact, reminds her of the fountain by her father's headstone)

she is distraught by this ease, this useless fluency

Yes, there were small joys: in a corner she found a lonely leather glove

thumbed her way through molded catalogues filled with things to lust --

couples hand in hand in glittering new watches

children playing tag in deep veined corduroy

and perhaps it was here, with this melancholy,

this realization that even cloistered, you will still find an attic-tossed magazine

and in it, the buzz and chatter of childhood will remind you of what you are,

and what you are not

yes, perhaps it was here, that she retreated into her young years,

where growing up didn't interfere with fantasies drawn by a wondrous,

flame-flickering mind.

On the day the rhino first loomed out of the shadows,

guiding its mass around a box of wooden hangers, its breath, a heavy, earthy sound

she thought of asking it how it got here

and if it lived off the crumbs of her crumble cake

but she knew the answers,

and more importantly knew that it too couldn't speak so well,

(in fact, not nearly as well as she)

instead, she watched it pivot and step, inching its way to her side

and when they were eye to eye, she looked into its rubbery sheen

and saw clever little thoughts that made her smile and bleat with laughter

a laugh that she usually tried to stifle with the fist of her hand --

the gasping, grotesque, beautiful laugh that frightened and startled

adults and children alike

(a laugh that could kill a horse, as her mother once said)

but the rhino did not mind the laughter and asked her nicely if they could be friends

If you like, you can sit on my back and we can talk about things all day long.

You'd be surprised, the rhino said,

how many things there are that are interesting and funny to talk about

First off, the rhino said, without a word, let's talk about poetry,

and what a wet waste of time it is for the writer and reader alike.

The girl a bit winded from heaving herself sidesaddle

onto the slate of the rhino's back, was amazed at such candor and wit

and without so much as a thought in her head,

found herself laughing like a little girl…