Ted Mathys



My mother, my wife, and my
infant daughter occupy
a commemorative bench 

bolted to the floor
in front of the lemurs
when I return with ice cream. 

Their eyes in smooth pursuit. 
Wordless. A coo. Across
the glass, in the habitat’s core 

two juveniles bounce
on a box of cabbage
suspended with a carabiner 

from the ceiling’s crude
fresco of jungle.
They whirl up the rope 

like wisps of smoke,
wrestle with cartoon abandon
over branches and harnesses 

to the limits of allowable experience, 
drawing lines with their bodies
corner to corner, as if to prove 

the extent of a cube.
The cube, inaugurated now
in thought, separates from habitat,

travels through glass, contracting,
and comes to rest in my head.
I put a brick in the cube. 

It falls through. I put in a leaf.
It, too, floats through. The word
“father,” and “son,” and my silence, 

the whole zoo, seen from above, 
as a map, folding into
the body’s dark paraphrase 

fall through to no place I know
how to escape or recover.
The lemurs’ mother 

swings to the glass, glares
at the ribbon of vanilla
running down my arm.


TED MATHYS is the author of three books of poetry, Null Set (2015), The Spoils (2009) and Forge (2005), all from Coffee House Press. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America. He lives in Saint Louis, teaches at Saint Louis University, and co-curates the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts Poetry Series.


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