Joan Digby









Yesterday the surgeon

shattered my cataract

and rolled a new lens

into my waiting eye.

Under mild sedation

I could see his shadow

behind a soft explosion

of golden fireworks

and clouds of pink and blue.


Today the yellow taxis

Rolled like sun balls

down Second Avenue

and fruit vendors on every corner

sold luminous ruby apples

fresh from Eden.


I looked up to find

that buildings had regained

all their sharp corners

and street signs all their numbers.


As I blinked my newer eye

to see the world had turned so clear

the other—once the better—

now revealed it own thin film

hinting of even brighter days to come

when the second veil is lifted.




BIRTHDAY VISIT                           


Last night my mother took a holiday from death

and met me in a diner in my dream. We sat up high

on counter stools, watching the chef as he deftly

butterflied filets sliced from a perfect leg of lamb.


The meat was pink, soft, flowing with aromatic juice.

“Would you like that,” I asked as he prepared a plate

with firm new potatoes and spinach hinting of thyme.

“I don’t eat food anymore,” she said without envy or

longing—“but I still like to watch.”






Across the counter a man

plays with my food.


It took him five year’s practice

to slice that purple tuna thin

and place the translucent wafer

exactly on its bed of rice.

His fingers knead the glutinous ball

tinged with a hint of green wasabi.

He wraps the nori round

and piles a mound of slivered ginger

on the wooden serving board.


I smile, focused on the caviar and egg

ready to give the fish and squid away

poach or drown it in a bowl

of miso shiro when his back is turned.


So much for sushi, however elegant.

Bring on the grilled, steamed, broiled and fried!






In loving camels,

I have become the camel,

soft-lipped ruminant

and carrier of great burdens.


Stopping neither to drink

nor to relieve myself,

I swag under the weight

of new-made paper,

a servant of ideas.


The desert people

who cannot read or write

want only skeins of silk

and precious ornaments.

Because we have none

they treat us poorly

and spit at our goods.


Crouched on the cooling sand,

my master drinks thin gruel

while I pull at thorny scrub.

All the hay, I’m told,

has gone to build the rising wall

that humps the mountains,

and not a straw remains for me.


Some say a single straw alone

has power to break

the camel’s sturdy back.

Mine twitches even now with pain.


Not straw—I say

but one sheet more of paper

will one day bring me down

along this mindless empty road.



© Joan Digby










Joan Digby is a senior Professor of English and Director of the Honors College and Poetry Center at Long Island University, Post Campus. Her abiding interest in animals ranges from her Ph.D. dissertation on animal fables to decades of work in cat rescue and horse care. Her books of poetry inspired by her commitment to animals are: A Clowder of Cats, Camels and Other Mammals, Snowball: New and Selected Poems, and Feral Mother. All were published by The Feral Press (now New Feral Press) a small press that she co-founded with her husband, John Digby, the British collagist and poet. A Sound of Feathers was published by Red Osier Press. Her poetry on diverse themes has appeared in numerous magazines and has been translated into several languages.


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