As far as the hiphole, every night I dug
into the dirt so I could put my body
partly underground on my long walk from
Lake Garda to Venice and thence to Bologna
and then third class to Florence, for the body
on either side can't rest on a flat surface,
say a wooden floor, but when we slept in
trees we must have slept facedown on top of
a branch and locked our hands to keep from falling
especially if we moved too much in our sleep
for we were monsters then and led alternative
lives with leopard skin of sorts and powerful
tails not to mention sharp teeth for cutting
and jaws for ripping and bird-like claws for holding
on and sometimes for piercing and sometimes just for
flea abatement or simply musing and scratching,
though we had holes too in the crowded forest
close to our trees, surrounded by our bushes,
for we lived mostly in the understories
and that way we left our lakes for distant cities
or what we took for cities then, the thought
was still with us when we were eating
mortadella and warm tomatoes and washing
our faces at the spigots stopping in
the Romanesques to look at the renderings;
we already knew the routes, we had our knapsacks
packed with toothbrushes, dictionaries, sweaters,
and Swiss knives, though we still walked on our knuckles.
At least I am luckier than that blue jay
hopping along the bulwark
his rubber leg falling back under him
absolutely doomed, the way it is out there.
My heart goes out to him
though he's more a bully than
any other warm creature that came my way.
I never thought I'd plead for a blue jay
I who haven't pled for seventy years,
I who got on my knees every night
to go through the ritual of my own devising.
I who had no grievances then.
W. W. Norton