What She Sees in the Diorama


Jan C. Grossman

The exhibits are unchanged,
although they have replaced an antelope
or painted an ibex.
The creatures pose in perpetuity,
still spreading a wing, opening a jaw.
One can almost see, though, in the jungle dark,
patches in the fur and torn feathers,
a lustreless eye.
But fierce in their habitat,
a cave of glass boxes in the mezzanine,
they glare out of the stillness and shadow,
defying time.
She never liked them before.
She does not like them now
as a human form seems to rise from the dry grass,
emerging among the moss and plants,
new hollow curves beneath the eyes,
and hair discolored, more coarse,
the arms and hips thicker than last time she looked.

It is survival of the fittest
she thinks of
as she blinks in the light of the next hall,
facing other females of the species,
traveling together with matched white skirts,
their bones braced under tanned, taut skin.
Quick-footed, they move as one; they are young.
She has been here a long time,
has wandered, missed a turn, lost her path.
But she sees herself again, in dawn-like light, among the nomads.
Here, women, barely clothed, kneel and lean
to scoop the earth with hollowed gourds
while their babies watch from baskets in the reeds.
She kneels, too,
bends over the tented hood of the stroller,
tools in both hands,
skillfully easing a straw into the juice box,
doling out crackers, resealing the bag.
In time she will find her way out,
her sandaled feet
moving silently, purposefully,
across the wide marble floor.

JAN C. GROSSMAN’s poems have appeared in Poetry East, The Midwest Quarterly, American Arts Quarterly, Atlanta Review and many others.