“Taming the Sloth” by James Ragan

James Ragan


I don’t know how long I can play with a sloth,
how long I can wait to time his glide
along a space no wider than his bulbous face,
as if the air had softened long enough to slow
each arm’s motion to an easy slide,
as if by committing each inch of leg
to a longer stroll, he’d be cool and jived,
just as we’d rehearsed for hours,
the slinky hitching up of knees
to gather up his fur like bunched underwear.
He’s stalling now for the little push
my hand decides to get a rhythm going,
to quicken the pace, to push ahead
just enough to score the next ride.
How long can I stand the indifference
of his cold stare burrowed into mine,
as if he’s judging a dance
where no one commits to lead or count in step.
I don’t know how long he can lie
in one place, cheering his lack of progress.
Now, he’s rolling round to his spine,
seeing the world from the bottom up,
believing this is knowledge of a kind,
having spent his clowning days
hanging downward by his toes,
trolling the uncertainties of ground,
as if by giving up a life of swinging free
across the long thin avenue of sky, 
he could teach me need, the patience 
to dream, how to slouch into the future
with the soft tongue-peddling of my breath
and a little push from behind.

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019


James Ragan: “I write to break down borders. My sensibility has always been global, to find expression through my poetry, plays, and films to bring individuals and worlds, seemingly apart, closer in understanding.”

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