Perodicticus potto

As night steeps he stirs, unbuds,

Reclenches his branch, sets his fine

Toothcomb and claw to appointed tasks,

Breathes in: so the world is laid out,

Scentscape, patched pattern: this realm, this canopy

And his own place. This pace

Is as it should be. Each arch

Of fat-tubed fingers lifts long as it has to,

Gaps to full span, forms its own foothold,

Roots again for the rest. With such support

All space is equal, and any breadth of bark

A corridor. Limber from limb to limb

He traverses, a prudent acrobat

(Yet poised, always, to switch to a savage rush

And backbone-bridge to become backbone as weapon).

Now, though, nothing threatens, and he edges on

Toward his usual pleasures: two bananas a minute,

Glass globules of gum to crack in crushing jaws,

Fresh trails of perfume: perhaps an invitation

To twine and mingle, to curry and anoint.


Softly, softly: we below have no more claim

Than that of a spectator. Stand and strain

To separate his outline from the darkness

That is his limpid homeland. Do you think

He needs your eyes to bring him into being?

Bosman or no man, to him we’re all the same:

Offshoots long tumbled from the family tree

And left in wonder, stunted so as to stretch.