Molly Vander Werp

Every animal after 10 a.m. on a Tuesday:

A pair of pigeons
beneath the overpass,
who bob toward me
in unison (each
the other’s reflection)
and shuffle off
as I approach.

Two big, white rats
in a plastic cage.
Their eyes are cherry jelly beans;
they are nearly blind.
The smaller one, whose brain I have seen
with naked eyes just this morning,
has a crown of staples.

A rock-sized toad,
soft under my foot.

A robin. An outdoor house fly. The husk
of a rhinoceros (on the television).

A herd of goats:
twelve young, five old, two teens.
They brush their necks against
my legs as shy swans.
They have names.
They have breath
like the pits of hell.

I have so many illusions
about our lives. So many,
I call them by name.

So many that
when I separate dams and kids,
heaving their hot,
sentient, stinking bodies
through one shining gate or another,
I imagine that their yells
are for food. I treat them
to pomegranate seeds, or raisins.

This poem is not a commentary—

       Not some jading juxtaposition
       between the lab rats and milk goats.
       Not a remark on animal death, which is everyone’s.

Leaving the goats, a rooster.

And, as the sun is setting,
I am approached by a cat
with seven toes on each of his paws;
today, a sprig of red feathers
between them.

Molly Vander Werp is a poet and laboratory technician from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is a recent graduate of Calvin University (‘21), with degrees in writing and biochemistry. This is her first published poem.

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Fall 2021