You sit down to order a simple plate
of chicken chow mein and discover
you’re a monkey or a tiger or a snake.
As you munch fried noodles your
paper placemat gives it to you straight:
you are talented and affectionate, marry a sheep.
The goldfish in the tank across the
room swim in and out of a huge,
submerged pagoda while you try
to remember the birthdays
of every woman you ever loved.
Maybe none were sheep;
that’s why things didn’t work out.
Pouring yourself a tiny cup of tea,
barely a mouthful, a giant’s tear,
you examine the menagerie on your placemat,
twelve animals, each illustrated in red.
Why is a cock compatible with
a snake? And why should a dragon avoid
a dog? Perhaps true wisdom lurks beyond
the brink of comprehension.
Which is why you lean back into the
vinyl booth and lose interest in the whole idea.
Sure, life is a zoo, people are animals,
rats and dogs are everywhere, but
for now your hunger takes over as
the waiter scoops steaming rice onto your plate.
You eat like a tiger, aggressive and courageous,
wondering if the solitary woman across the room
might be showing signs of timidity, elegance. If so,
she could be a sheep, you just might make it.
You’ll marry in the spring and she’ll
give birth to three strong children, Tom,
the tiger, Alex, the rabbit, and Annabell,
the pint-sized dragon.
Wolff Bowden, From “Heavyweight Champion of The Night”