Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2016  Vol. 15 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Give Orange Me Give Eat Orange Me Eat Orange
Give Me Eat Orange Give Me You

This, it is reported, is Nim’s longest sentence. On the flight to Oklahoma,
he is wearing Levi’s bell-bottoms (Boys’ Huskie 12),

Bob Seger on his T-shirt, a ’78 tour. On the flight to Oklahoma,
he does not sign cloud or window. But when his ears pop

it is Nim head bad & a stick of Juicy Fruit, unwrapped & proffered
by Miss Butler, prompting Gum me gum. On the flight to Oklahoma,

he is still a stream of lexemes that obeys a grammar, a beginning & an end.
Tray table down, Miss Butler peels an orange, the zest moting up

in sunlight to please open hurry, ’til the segments ooze their juices
down the fur that lines his thumb. Below is Oklahoma; the experiment

is over. At the primate center they will ask Miss Butler
to remove Bob Seger, fearful of Nim’s storied snarl & bite.

At the cage door he holds to her so tight she must pry herself free.
Lamentation too obeys its grammar, though the syntax of erasure

is inscrutable; there in the mirror, a steel-gray occlusion. Whose
face? Whose? Saturday morning & it’s barely 8: Stacy our neighbor at the door,

telling us her mother’s wandered from the house again—
fourth time since they brought her back from the home.

& the posse forms, Volvos & Subarus, a cavalcade
down the cul-de-sacs of tract homes, past paunches with weed whackers,

faux-punk skateboarders, helmetless, hip-hop bleeding
out their headphones, haberdasher Steve bent down to wax his Benz,

polishing until his face gleams out in onyx from his fender.
We find her at the strip mall, by the coin shop & Circle K, curlers,

flowered housecoat, in her fingers a quivering Pall Mall. Last month,
over drinks on their porch, we watched Stacy

power up the laptop in the living room beyond, clicking on Skype,
setting her mother before the humming screen. Three heads

out of focus, bobbing their marionette twitch. & her own face
in the smaller square, staring from the pixeled static.

From the corner of my eye, bruschetta in my hand,
I watched. The names, the names, the names.

The twins in yellow dresses, waving, are . . . the twins,
but her daughter is Emily is Emily. Already the crossing is over.

The taste of metal in her mouth as she hands the coin to Charon,
sharp the stones that line the riverbank, but painless

to her ectoplasmic feet. Emily, to whom she waves. One twin
with her palm against the screen, a handprint in ochre

on a cave wall, hazing in & out of shape. Grammar,
accidence, the slate which is the color of a troubled sky.

Give orange me orange orange give. Oklahoma orange give.
On the grainy Super 8, Nim is signing to a chimp named Paco,

who hoots & bears his teeth, the vertical
head nod that signals aggression. Orange me give

give orange me. The camera wobbles as Paco leaps,

rattling the bars that roof their cage.  

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