“How Quickly the World Can Change” by Frank Dullaghan

Frank Dullaghan


The animals come to stare at your baby girl
astride her rocking horse, in danger
of toppling off at any moment, the horse
a little big for her, she a little young.

It starts with the zebra, stretching
its long head out before it, its legs bent under,
nestling its body, its liquid eyes half-closed,
but its ears pricked. A tiger parts the grass
and eases forward, its belly brushing the ground.
It settles its head on its front paws, its tail
still hidden, a snake in the grass, its eyes
sharp, watching, its springs coiled.

Your baby girl sits still, having less than it takes
to move the rockers. You are missing—
in the house maybe, stirring something
in a pot. A couple of neighbourhood dogs
slip in at the gate, lie down on the path,
tongues lolling, keeping their own eye.

The grey-back pushes through the bushes—
a cascade of leaves—and sits like an emperor.
It stays this way for a while—
creatures and baby making a silent tableau.

But when you return, a baby gorilla is rocking
the horse with a frenzy and your baby girl
is softly asleep in the crook of the grey-back’s
arm, her thumb in her mouth, her fair hair
a wave across its dark forearm. All the animals
watch you now, the anticipation of what
will happen next ticking between them.

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019


Frank Dullaghan: “I am an Irish writer living in Dubai. Perhaps poems can’t change the world. But they can change us. They can find ways to examine and respond to the world we confront. They can offer comfort. They can be a voice. This poem, I suppose, is about the high levels of uncertainty faced by so many of us today, the way one’s world can suddenly change, the helplessness of this. I must also acknowledge my wife Marie here, who had the idea of a one-minute play using these animals (we have them life-size in our home), which prompted this poetic response.” (web)

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