Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

American Alligator

American Alligator

By Barbara Helfgott Hyett

Theirs is a slow and gentle courtship,
seeking one another in the sedges,
marking the swamp with a trail of scent.
They bellow loudly for days. When she
moves to deep water he follows; when
she climbs onto land, he lies beside her
on the bare bank, stroking her back
with a five-fingered hand.

He mounts her in shallow water, places
his head beneath the sensitive margin
of her mouth. Rubbing her throat with
the scutes of his neck, he blows hard
on the water, bubbles stinging her cheek.
He grasps her neck with his jaws, bends
his tail beneath hers. Everything is moving:
shadows on the delicate eyeballs, the lids
of their ears, the inner ear, eleven thousand
vibrating hairs. The light on the water shimmers
as it enters the narrow slits of their eyes.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 69, No. 2 (Summer 1995), p. 144


a photo of Barbara Helfgott Hyett Photo by

Richard Howard

Barbara Helfgott Hyett is a poet, professor, and public lecturer. She has published five collections of poetry, including In Evidence: Poems of the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps, which was selected for Booklist's "Editor's Choice.” Her poems and essays have appeared in such journals as The New Republic, The Nation, AGNI, Ploughshares, and in more than 40 anthologies. As a poet in the schools, she has served more than 200 communities, and was artist-in-residence at the MFA and the Fuller Art Museums. She is currently director of PoemWorks: The Workshop for Publishing Poets in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Return To Table Of Contents