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A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 22 2003 10:43 AM


Listen to Albert Goldbarth reading this poem.

The authorities imported certain rabbits
to the island, as a remedy for a certain obnoxious weed:
they'd graze it, easily, to a reasonable number.
It's why I thought of Frank and Dorrie and when
their marriage had entered its deep plum moment of melancholia
—none of the usual mood enhancers helped her—and,
at Frank's insistent pleading, she began to see a therapist.
I gave the plan a thumbs-up too. But maybe
you've already guessed: in just a fingersnap or two
of human sexual time, the rabbits overran the countryside,
and rats were imported to check that growth … so one year later
officials were offering goat-herders up in the steppes
a bounty of one cent (which was reasonable pay for then
and there) for every rat tail brought to a magistrate.
The lesson: some solutions only add another problem.
Dorrie started to sleep with the therapist.



It's a bit like astrophysics … once the answer to the question
is "dark matter," the answer is really another and even
weightier, stickier question. Once the second honeymoon
has used up feeling like the first … it's everything else,
all over again—the promises that wear away
at their edges as if from silverfish; the false incriminations—
only now exacerbated by the size of a cruise ship cabin.
You can see, we're back at the story of Frank and Dorrie.
How could we not be? "Plum," I said in section one: the way
the sweetness of the meat inside beseeches us, and the color
of bruise on the outside is appallingly familiar. It's their story;
and it's your story and mine. Once evolution's answer to time
is the human brain … well, here we are, with all of our burrs
and webs and unforeseeables. Up in the steppes,
a constable uncovered caves where the locals were busy
breeding rats, adding to the population. Of course; a penny a tail.

Albert Goldbarth lives in Wichita, Kan. He has received the National Book Critics Circle Award. His two most recent books are Combinations of the Universe and a novel, Pieces of Payne.