The Occasional Excesses

J. Allyn Rosser

Well naturally the dinosaurs had had to go.
He was green then, how could He know
it would be like directing a car-crash movie
that had no plot at all? But some among
this new crop were also painful to watch.
Ostriches and eels still gave Him the willies.
He wished sometimes he could reach down
and tweak a bit, but once You set them going . . .
The greater challenges turned out to be the ones
that looked simple on the page: snake, rabbit, wren.
The peacock had been a trip! He had to admit
he’d gone a bit over the top there.
But it had taken forever to ensure the quills
wouldn’t tangle like keys on a manual typewriter,
so He couldn’t bring Himself to scrap it.
And then tortoises, come on, the genius of that armor
doubling as serving dish for those strong enough
to pry it apart—but the males having to heave themselves,
shell and all, to lock into position for coupling,
in danger of falling backward in a transport of passion!
He had to regret His own brilliance at times,
watching the best of intentions turn travesty.
Like the sweet gullibility of turkeys drowning
of thirst, when the heavens poured down
too many answers to their prayers.
Like the red-sided garter snake’s sex
by strangulation—who wants to see that?
Like the intelligence of humans.
They had been amusing until they carried invention
too far, but whose fault was that?
They’d learned hubris from the Best.
It was a bloody shame to have to start over.
But no hurry. He loved this sensation of having
all the time in the world, now that they thought
they could undo what they’d done. It was only fair
to let them try. He couldn’t deny how much he loved
this extended prep period, like a string of snow days,
free time stretching before Him just as it used to,
feeling the juice of the ages drip down his back
and pearl His brow, bent at the drafting table
with wide, free strokes to conjure genera and species,
alternating bizarre with plain, the coarsely furred and horned
with the refined silhouette, the dusting of adjustable hair,
species after species he was saving for the new season
which wouldn’t be long, not now, in coming.

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J. Allyn Rosser’s fourth collection of poems is Mimi’s Trapeze (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). She is the recipient of fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, and the Ohio Arts Council. She teaches at Ohio University, where she served for eight years as the editor of New Ohio Review.

New England Review

Volume 39, Number 1 / 2018

Middlebury, Vermont

Middlebury College

Editor
Carolyn Kuebler

Managing Editor
Marcia Pomerance

Poetry Editor
Rick Barot

By publishing new fiction, poetry, and nonfiction that is both challenging and inviting, New England Review encourages artistic exchange and thought-provoking innovation, providing publishing opportunities for writers at all stages in their careers. The selection of writings in each issue presents a broad spectrum of viewpoints and genres, including traditional and experimental fiction, long and short poems, translations, criticism, letters from abroad, reviews in arts and literature, and rediscoveries. New England Review exists in a place apart from mass culture, where speed and information overload are the norm. At NER, serious writing is given serious attention, from the painstaking selection process through careful editing and publication, where finally the writer’s words meet up with a curious and dedicated readership.

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