Lantern Review

Issue 6 | 2014

Matthew Olzmann

The Gallery of Naming Rituals

Consider Adam rolling through the garden, sentenced
to name the animals. Hello frog.
Hello wolf. Hello marmoset and three-toed sloth.
At first: what joy! What beauty!
Hello ring-tailed lemur.
Hello star-nosed mole, zebra and banana slug.
How he breezed back and forth,
between the north and south gates, pointing
and naming, codifying and organizing.
Hello, cotton rat and prairie racerunner.
Good morning, blue whale and tiger prawn.
Such musical beasts—with their trumpet throats
and xylophone scales, their accordion lungs
and kick drum muscles—he’d announce the names
and the names would sing back.
Hello red-bellied newt.
Pleased to meet you, antelope and dragonfly.

But the work was impossible, tedious
and more exhausting by the day.