“Aardvarks”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 10 2012 6:20 AM

“Aardvarks”


Aardvark.

Photograph by iStockphoto.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Philip Schultz read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

It’s summer and the Jitney is packed,
every seat taken, except for the one
across the aisle, in which a man
has barricaded his window seat with
a briefcase and jacket, an act meant
to confront others with his superiority.
Munching chips and guffawing at
a YouTube video of an obese woman
riding a scooter down a country road,
towing a younger obese woman
in a wheelchair, he reminds me
of a neighbor’s dog that would steal
and bury our dog’s bones, then growl
defiantly on his side of our fence.
Pythagoras believed our souls ended up
inside the bodies of animals selected
as rewards and punishments.
The three giggling girls behind me,
stretching their legs into the aisle
every time the shy attendant passes,
forcing him to stutter apologies
in a Slavic accent—poodles, probably.
Pythagoras also believed the shapes
of numbers symbolize our significance.
Well, sequestered here between work
and family, thought and dreaming,
I’m probably some kind of numinous digit
slowly evolving into, say, an aardvark
hurling down the highway inside a bus
camouflaged as a vodka bottle, on its way
to a barricaded future on the far side
of a fence where all our significance is buried.

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site. Click here for an archive of discussions about poems with Robert Pinsky in "the Fray," Slate's reader forum.

Philip Schultz's memoir, My Dyslexia, came out last fall. He founded and directs The Writers Studio, a private school for writing, now in its 25th year.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 3:33 PM Killing With Kindness My in-laws want to throw me a get-well-from-cancer bash. There’s no way I can go.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.