Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lore of the Midwest

When Della had finished reading a book of poems called Midwest Eclogue to her dying grandmother, this only living and senile relative of Della’s drifted into a sound sleep. Della’s mind had grown quiet, and so she just watched out the window, taking in the lakefront view from the sixteenth floor of St. Joseph’s Hospital. She lowered her gaze and on the street below, Della saw a woman keeping up with a Retriever and a man walking next to her, but the two were not touching. The dog carried some large and strange object in its mouth. Something about the scene irked Della enough to make her feel she had something to prove. Della, recently divorced, set her jaw and decided she was ready to do what her husband of twelve years had been always nagging her to do. ‘I will prove I am not a coward.’ She thought. ‘I will put my head into the mouth of a ferocious lion.’ She walked out of the hospital and straight to the Lincoln Park Zoo the whole time keeping the phrases of David Baker’s poems on her mind. When she got to the Kolver Lion House, the animals were sleeping as soundly as her grandmother, but they woke as soon as Della, determined and confident, smuggled herself into the cage by laying low in a barrel marked Lion Diet that contained mice, lizard, and warthog meat. She rose from the slop, brushed herself off and executed the head-in-the-mouth-of-the-lion trick with the ease of a professional lion tamer. With her head completely submerged in the lion’s gullet, she swore she heard a voice rise up from the beast’s rumbling stomach. The voice was repeating these words from David Baker's Midwest Eclogue, “Hunger drives the animal mind to fill its needs by the nearest means.” Della pulled her head out and stroked the gentle beast. She whispered, “Yes, poetry can be such a marvelous, natural sedative!” Della concluded that the hole left by a failed marriage could be cured by getting a couple pet cats and a litter box.

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