Patience as a Crocodile

By Damen O’Brien

Seven hours under
bubbles to breakfast,
practicing his terminus
while they slap water
with the fowl’s carcass rag
and tempt him to spring-
loaded striking at 1 p.m.,
to the matador’s applause
each hot weekday and
twice on Saturday, but
he must only win once,
tangent to his target,
a holy investiture,
sacred digestion, and
every zookeeper has
one absent moment,
so he’ll wait forever
like the best missionaries,
for the one chance of faith
to find its grim purchase,
when in the coughing dark,
a child’s fever breaks
and prayer can be praised,
so one heedless heel
too close to the water,
then matter of fact,
not with any animus,
not out of revenge,
a final punctuation
for the slow god
of limitless perseverance,
cold-scaled leviathan,
to take and roll and roll 
until the silent ripple of
dismay which is
a crocodile’s patience.

Damen O’Brien is a multi-award-winning Australian poet. His poems have won the Moth Poetry Prize, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize, and the Newcastle Poetry Prize. His first book of poetry, Animals With Human Voices, was published in 2021 through Recent Work Press. O’Brien’s poems have been published in various journals including Cordite, Overland, Southerly, Island, and Griffith Review.

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