The Zoologist’s Daughter
Father dumps the earthworms from the bucket
onto the billiard table. Glistening pink strings
dangle, reminding me of the beef Cook sieves
through her mincer. Crumbs of humus drown
in the knotty mass like stones in a whirlpool.
I assemble my bassoon. Tenor joint, long joint,
strap and boot. The bocal curls from the body,
a butcher’s hook. I banish the image and ease
the reed between my lips. I taste bitter cane
yet think of an infant sucking the nipple.
Begin, orders Father, notebook out, pencil stiff.
I blow the first few bars of the Mozart concerto.
Father leans over the earthworms that ripple,
a mermaid’s hair floating on the baize.
Excellent, he says. A definite reaction.
He flashes his notebook. Circles, arrows.
A rising spiral, a hawk’s flight to heaven.
For a beat, his eyes are lenses trained on space.
Little pools of stars. Well done, Georgiana. Mozart,
they liked, anyway. Now have Simmons clear this
He opens his study door. Mother, always nineteen,
stares down from a daguerreotype frame. No son.
Free of my instrument, I spread my palms
across the baize. Threads tug at my skin.
I sink into earth and swim with the worms.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, William Stephenson
would be pleased to hear them.