Erica Jong (26 March 1942 / New York City)
At the Museum of Natural History
The lessons we learned here
(fumbling with our lunchbags,
& secret cheeks of bubblegum)
were graver than any
in the schoolroom:
the dangers of a life
frozen into poses.
Trilobites in their
who'd outsized themselves
told how nature was
an endless morality play
in which the cockroach
(& all such beadyeyed
exemplars of adjustment)
might well recite the epilogue.
No one was safe
but stagnation was
the surest suicide.
To mankind's Hamlet,
what six-legged creature would play
Fortinbras? It made you scratch
your head & think
for about two minutes.
Going out, I remember
how we stopped to look at
(Soldier, Statesman, Naturalist,
et cetera, et cetera).
His bronze bulk (four times life size)
bestrode Central Park West
like a colossus.
His monumental horse
snorted towards the park.
Oh, we were full of Evolution & its lessons
When (the girls giggling madly,
the boys blushing) we peeked
between those huge legs to see
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