Two Poems

by Charlotte Matthews

Field Guide to Gentleness

A man sits the last four years
outside the gorilla cage watching
the eldest male swing between
branches of pale, uprooted trees.

The gorilla sits with his back
to the man who sits with his back
to me, every day on his folding chair,
every day the roar of tourist voices

reverberating off cinder walls,
every day his friend behind bars.
When the ape dies in early summer,
and the man stops coming to the zoo,

he explains for the radio:
Now I am the one in the cage.
How he is able to wake
each morning when even the trees

are holding their breath
remains a secret I will never know.
Like all great loves,
this one ends in death.

The Cancer Patient Dreams

This is the underside of the world
delicate and transparent as ice,
as maple leaves red as heat,
the very ones she raked this morning,
the ones strewn all over the yard,
so the made piles rattle
the exact moment
the train goes by, carrying coal
from the mountains eastward.
She turns and goes inside,
sweeps her room in the dark,
hoping for an alchemist,
someone to change lead into gold.