Binta Jua

Binti Jua

A gorilla saved a child                                               
that tumbled down to her, eighteen feet.                       
Saved him from the other apes
who defend their stretch of dirt.                                   
Carried him, as if her own,
clutched to her dark chest.           
The child recovered
and the news proclaimed:            
animals are angels in disguise.

As a baby, the gorilla
came to the zoo alone,
so the keepers had to teach her,                                    
with dolls and toys, to nurture.
They claim these lessons
saved the boy;                        
a gift from man to beast to man.
But Binti looked beyond
the smell of not-doll flesh.
The noise of not-ape mouth.
Found something to cherish
in the child's hairless skin.

Now they crowd outside her cage,
but does she notice him there?
And does he wave
to his brown-eyed savior?                                               
Or is he held back
in a kind of shame?
And when he dreams
of this strange journey
does he recall
his brief ape-mother?                                               
Her cunning hands around his back,
her husky breath upon his brow?
The smell of fur and fruit and shit?

Or is there only the fall,                                               
the long, long fall
into the pit?