In the time stripes run off to infinite
raspberry rows, beach towels and barbed-wire fences
white stones at veteran cemeteries, shirts on jockeys
whip-flay scars on the winced back
In those hours when engineers offer more
parallels and planes, staircases, highway lines
while poets write left to right, or right to left
or up to down to fence-board meaning,
you could show off the stripes you earned –
boy scout, firefighter, officer, security,
as if they are jet contrails on a mission
or barcodes of best.
The children practice script and subtraction
for gold stickers that may fall off their paper
or for the teacher’s scrawl of five-line stars
as they sit in rows of desks and walk in lines.
And creatures. Of course, zebra.
Slugs, skinks, skunks, tabbies and tigers,
mouse, chipmunk, numbat and nyala.
Okapi and angelfish. The garter snake.
Me? I ache for pinnate – heavenly bamboo
the tree of silk, oak and alder,
maple and the peach. How petal lines
guide the bees to pollen.
My camouflage of wrinkles, dendritic,
brings the infinite nearer. I step out of line.
Aging does that.