Erica Jong

(26 March 1942 / New York City)

At the Museum of Natural History Poem by Erica Jong


The lessons we learned here
(fumbling with our lunchbags,
handkerchiefs
& secret cheeks of bubblegum)

were graver than any
in the schoolroom:
the dangers of a life
frozen into poses.

Trilobites in their
petrified ghettos,
lumbering dinosaurs
who'd outsized themselves

told how nature was
an endless morality play
in which the cockroach
(& all such beadyeyed

exemplars of adjustment)
might well recite the epilogue.
No one was safe
but stagnation was

the surest suicide.
To mankind's Hamlet,
what six-legged creature would play
Fortinbras? It made you scratch

your head & think
for about two minutes.
Going out, I remember
how we stopped to look at
Teddy Roosevelt,
(Soldier, Statesman, Naturalist,
Hunter, Historian,
et cetera, et cetera).

His bronze bulk (four times life size)
bestrode Central Park West
like a colossus.
His monumental horse

snorted towards the park.
Oh, we were full of Evolution & its lessons
When (the girls giggling madly,

the boys blushing) we peeked
between those huge legs to see
those awe-inspiring
Brobdingnagian balls.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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