Oni Buchanan



Dear Lonely Animal,

I’m writing to you from the loneliest, most
secluded island in the world. I mean,
the farthest away place from anything else.

There are so many fruits here growing on trees
or on vines that wrap and wrap. Fruits
like I’ve never seen except the bananas.

All night the abandoned dogs howled.
I wonder if one dog gives the first howl, and if
they take turns who’s first like carrying

the flag in school. Carrying the flag
way out in front and the others
following along behind in two long lines,

pairs holding hands. Also the roosters here crow
from 4am onward. They’re still crowing right now
and it’s almost noon here on the island.

Noon stares back no matter where you are.
Today I’m going to hike to the extinct volcano
and balance on the rim of the crater. Yesterday

a gust almost blew me inside. I heard
that the black widows live inside the volcano
far down below in the high grasses that you can’t

see from the rim. Well, I was going to tell you
that this morning the bells rang and I
followed them and at the source of the bells,

there I found so many animals
all gathered together in a room
with carved wooden statues

and wooden benches and low wooden slats
for kneeling. And the animals were there
singing together, all their voices singing,

with big strong voices rising from even
the filthiest animals. I mean, I’ve seen animals
come together and sing before, except in

high fancy vaults where bits of colored glass
are pieced together into stories. Some days
I want to sing with them.

I wish more animals sang together all the time.
But then I can’t sing sometimes
because I think of the news that happens

when the animals stop singing.
And then I think of all the medications
and their side effects that are advertised

between the pieces of news. And then I think
of all the money the drug companies spent
to videotape their photogenic, well-groomed animals,

and all the money they spent to buy
a prime-time spot, and I think, what money
buys the news, and what news

creates the drugs, and what
drugs control the animals, and I get so
choked I can’t sing anymore, Lonely Animal.

I can’t sing with the other animals. Because it’s
hard to know what an animal will do when it
stops singing. It’s complicated, you know, it’s just



The Lonely Animal

I visited the animal
I visited it in its hole
I visited it till the dawn
when it sunk its razor teeth
into the dawn’s throat, tore,
and the sky began its spill of blood

I visited the animal
I ran down the hillside of wet grass
and found it where it lived
It wasn’t sleeping (for it never slept)
It stayed awake all night soundless and still
I visited the animal without a sound

I visited the animal by day
I brought it twigs and ferns
It lashed the branches with a lanyard
woven in and out; it perched upon its bramble throne
It folded closed its sanitary paws, its paws
scrubbed clean down in the cold waters of the stream

I scrubbed with the animal, scrubbed at the stream
scrubbed away the bits of dirt
scrubbed my matted fur, scrubbed
the goblet gilt in gold, the shard of pottery
wedged into the earth; for everything must
be cleaned and readied for the ritual of tears

I drank with the animal, from the gilded goblet
from the cold and flowing stream where
a single goldfish swam: a bright and sudden flash
as quickly gone. The lonely goldfish cries
and its own tears stick to it like sparkling pins
that make it shimmer, like it wears a shawl of diamonds

I cried with the animal
in midday over the water while below
the lily pads gently swooned and shuddered
I cried swooning with the animal
as the evening fell like autumn leaves
as the moss grew damper, deeper and more still

Quiet I watched the animal cry into its goblet
I watched it catch each sliding tear
as carefully as liquid gold
and together they pooled and made a surface
where I was not reflected, where the animal
could watch itself crying, crying, crying—


Dear Lonely Animal,

Sometimes I could just
burst into tears. I found some friends,
but they don’t understand

I just don’t care about baseball
and cupcake bakes and
beer pong. And I don’t “hang out.”

I don’t like hanging out.
And I don’t like bowling.
Sometimes I get in these moods, Animal,

and I become intolerable even to myself.
But I become very anxious
about my brain cells.

I feel that I need
all the brain cells I have.
Because I need to remember all the things

I saw and heard, and I need to remember
all the things I memorized.
And mostly all the people, especially

the people whom I miss the most.
I need to remember their voices and faces,
their real faces talking and laughing and not

some face from a photograph of them.
It’s like all the real faces, when they’re
gone for a while, they always

tend toward those photo faces and then
they become the photo faces and then I know
I’ve forgotten. And I could just bury myself

in the ground! I could just burst
into a million tears, sharp tears
like daggers that turn back on my body

and stab, stab, stab—tiny piercings
like tiny mouths biting all at once.
Like that Canadian goose somebody found

sitting by the side of the road, just
sitting there. Somebody lifted up
that huge bird and brought it in to us

at the Bird Rescue. The goose didn’t
so much as honk or give even the slightest
whisper of a honk. It didn’t

flap its wings or snap at anybody with its beak.
It looked tired, Lonely Animal.
Very tired. My aunt extended

one of the goose’s wings to see
if the wing was broken
and there, under the wing, in the dense

body of the bird, was an injury
where some car or other
had hit it and driven away.

And in the injury there were
scores of maggots, teeming there,
boring into its soft body, devouring it

alive, mouthful by mouthful
with their tiny, smacking
maggot lips. You know that sound

maggots make when they’re eating,
and mealworms too. A tiny wet smacking
like that gross sound when you stir up

macaroni and cheese. I have one friend
who does a great maggot impression.
But mostly my friends go on big

road trips and have dinner parties.
They talk about NPR. They ask me if I read
Billy Collins. NO I DO NOT

how can they forget their work like that?
Walking down the street with me,

one friend yelled “Fuck you”
at a stranger because he drove by
in a Hummer. Well, I hate all this

political bullshit and I could just
cry a million billion tears but what
good would it do? If one person

does not know how to treat
one other person, what good
are my million tears then?

past simple home