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by Pamela Alexander

audioear pictureHear Pamela Alexander read this poem (in RealAudio)

Next time you walk by my place
in your bearcoat and mooseboots,
your hair all sticks and leaves
like an osprey's nest on a piling,
next time you walk across my shadow
with those swamp-stumping galoshes
below that grizzly coat and your own whiskers
that look rumpled as if something's
been in them already this morning
mussing and growling and kissing--
next time you pole the raft of you downriver
down River Street past my place
you could say hello, you canoe-footed fur-faced
musk ox, pockets full of cheese and acorns
and live fish and four-headed winds and sky, hello
is what human beings say when they meet each other
--if you can't say hello like a human don't
come down this street again and when you do don't
bring that she-bear, and if you do I'll know
even if I'm not on the steps putting my shadow
down like a welcome mat, I'll know.

Pamela Alexander is the author of two books of poetry, Navigable Waterways (1985) and Commonwealth of Wings (1991).

Copyright © 1994 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; June 1994; Look Here; Volume 273, No. 6; page 72.

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