Observations in Group Therapy

DIANA twitters.
She beats her auburn wings
against an invisible cage.
Its bars are strong, but bendable
like the lark's song.
Her bill, open, could twist bamboo.
Her tongue flutters,
with rage, perhaps, as she sings.
Her eyes pierce us all
with journeys she must make.
She's one more bird
we can ignore, or admire
when she perches on the sill at last.
At dawn, she sings, full of new fire.
Fed, she flashes us a glimpse
of feathers, bright red.
She needs to fly.

ELIZABETH makes no mistakes.
Sleekly she moves. She finds the sunniest
spot on the window sill where she eyes
birds and poets. She notes well
strengths and flaws of her sisters here.
Modestly, she pauses to lick her paws
and counts again the funniest
dinners and diners complete with cakes
and cheer. She wants to dine well.
She signs her name and gazes at each
creature sharing her cage. Meow.
She smiles at each new version of hell.

TINA brooks no nonsense.
Each bovid among us carries a book,
She has checked them out.
Her eye-lashes are long and rich,
like the milk of the herd. She
is the last of the cattle into the barn,
lowing gently, to guide her friends
into line, keeping track, while
swallows in the rafters peer down
to see if she has brought a key
to lock up all our secrets or, likely,
set them free. We listen with care,
watching her beginnings of a smile
She lowers her horns, to gently prod
the hay, to find truth, hidden guile.

RHODA notices things we don't.
She waits for treats, for a walk
through Central Park, or maybe
the beach. Her new leash is trimmed
with rhinestones, her collar jingles
with affection and a little bell
to tell us we must pay attention. She
is alert to doors opening. She knows
what perches on the window sill.
In this dish is nonsense, in that one
is wisdom. She points immediately
to the one most likely to make her
happy. Her eyes are bright, and
her nose tells you good morning.
She is clever and she knows
how to please women and men,
frightened fools and presidents.

MARGARET outruns most idiots.
Her gait is strong and steady.
How many women are horses in
disguise? Listen to her nostrils whuff
as she breathes into your hand.
She will accept your carrot
or mints. Her large eyes remain
calm, and she watches as we
sing or attempt to leap fences
again and again. Then she tosses
her head, impatient to run, and
quietly canters through the park
to leave the leaves behind,
fooling us about stuff. She still
wants to graze where it is
always forbidden.

CAROLE lines her cage
with paper. She is building a nest,
learning language too. She says,
in signs: I need a rest.
A star in the zoo's simian exhibit,
she passed the test.
She is the smartest chimp,
the one who first learned words.
Now she tears them up.
She wants to break the rules--
decorates her nest with letters,
dreams of mom and dad.
She's feeling very sad, but
still salvages bits of humor.
In her cage, she saves sounds
of laughter, and kisses all
envelopes good night, learning
their secrets of how to be happy,
when she wakes up.

EMILY, you dear deer,
Bambi would fall in love with you.
All the forest thinks you're sweet,
but we know you're a foolish doe.
You browse too close to the highway.
Tentatively you step closer and closer
to the lights and sounds of the street.
You nibble on fresh-mown grass,
your eyes reflecting high beams
of cars with no thought of you.
Stop in your path, lost deer.
what seems good in your vision,
gleams, but it is an illusion.
Her fragile legs should not go
where the brightness contains lies.

LISA is happy in her school
of freshwater friends. Confident
with the power of numbers, she
coasts with her partner and
colleagues. The sun sparkles
on her fins. She adroitly turns
and swims in another direction.
Gills calmly close, open, close.
She watches us with detached
amusement. She turns and
faces the world. Startled
at some sudden sound,
she swims away, only to see
at last, how small this
aquarium really is.

MARY with serpentine skill,
crawls around the tree again.
She drapes her green self
from branch to branch.
Her tiny eyes glitter
as she gazes on each creature
as potential poetic lunch.
Suavely, she coils around
nuggets of human nature,
shrugging off skin and scales,
and smothers what might
chirp, or bark, or cry out
to tell another tale. She
won't listen. She foils all
probes, and paints these
portraits as she will, tongue
flickering with wit and
willfulness. Until we eat

c2001Mary Kennan Herbert

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Mary Kennan Herbert teaches literature and writing courses at colleges and universities in New York City.  Her poems have appeared in literary journals in 13 different countries.  Her first three collections of poems were published by Ginninderra Press in Australia; her fourth and most recent book, "Coasts," was published by Meadow Geese Press in Massachusetts. She was awarded first prize in the 1999 poetry competition sponsored by the Midwest Conference on Christianity and Literature.