Jill and Carolee have a fun poetry site aptly called Poem, where they post a poem for participants to read, enjoy, study, and maybe use as a springboard for writing. The first for this season is Denise Duhamel’s mock sestina, Delta Flight 659: to Sean Penn.
My imitation is about a local celebrity, a gorilla named Willie B, who was kept indoors for 27 years, until they renovated the Atlanta Zoo. It’s so sad to see animals kept locked up.
I see this piece as more of an exercise than a poem, and a hard exercise at that. In Denise Duhamel’s piece, she plays on Sean Penn’s name, ending each line with a different word that includes the syllable pen. I’m very impressed with her results now that I’ve tried it myself.
In Atlanta there lived a gorilla named Willie B
who died in 2000, the year before
911. He was forty, I remember,
because I was too, just beginning
a new millennium as Willie B’s heartbeats
were fading, six years after his baby
Kudzoo was born. The last time we saw Willie B
he squatted between
boulders on a hillside, behind
thick glass walls, maybe
listening to human kids bellowing
Willie B! Willie B! Bees
and flies drew invisible lines beneath
tree limbs where he lounged on a bed
of grass, near females nursing babies.
His eyes were as dark as tea. Crabby
kids pressed their hands on the glass, beseeching
Willie B to pound his chest like a typical beast,
as if he were King Kong, bedazzled
by a lovely blonde. But he was no sucker for bedlam,
he was the prince of his tribe, a beatific
icon who didn’t seem to notice the bedraggled
trees in the pretend forest, or the Frisbees
flying through the sky beyond
the walls of his outdoor bedroom.
His keepers had made him live behind
bars for twenty-seven years, in a room befitting
an ax murderer or an embezzler.
Now he was as free as the Bengal
tiger in the zooscape nearby.
He had a full belly and his days were benign,
a becoming epitaph for human beings
too, we who bate bears and belabor the point that we’re human.