On the twisted handle-bars
of a summer more than
half-spent. On a balance

eager for wild days to last,
yearning for tedious heat to end,

he bikes randomly west to Ulrich
Center. Peregrinations of a boy
striking out arbitrarily toward
any of the four sacred serendipitous

directions. Escaping monotony,
seeking adventure. He discovers a
shopping-plaza zoo in the midst of commerce,
among parking lot Impalas, Jaguars,

a Buick Skylark—Myna birds with human words,
the screech of a parrot in a filthy coop,
an ocelot or lynx pacing. Sights and sounds
unexpected. He circles, buzzing the zoo like

a plane. Not daring to light until he
glimpses, in its cramped cage, the macaque. So
like a man, forlorn in summer heat, a
flinch of boredom or exhaustion in
his narrow face. He swings a periodic

arm, a metronome, to fend off
flies and other smaller monkeys,
toy soldiers vaulting at his head.

Still straddling, the boy drags his
bike to a new perspective,
to find the other monkeys
biting at the old macaque’s
half-eaten ear, at the clotted
and bleeding side of his pink
and vulnerable head. The boy
does nothing but bolt, biking
off, his faith in mankind, its tar
and pitch pace of evolution,
melting away on the asphalt
as hot August presses his face.

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VINCENT JOSEPH NOTO, descendant of Sicilian immigrants—high-rise beam walkers, barkeeps, radio-news anchors, fashion designers, herb-farmers, restaurateurs, grocers, home-builders, and civil engineers—grew up in the San Joaquin Valley of California. In the 1980s he studied poetry under the late Philip Levine at CSU Fresno. Noto has taught in Central and Southern California high schools and managed bookstores. He now lives in Oregon with his fiancée, Melissa. You’ll find Noto’s poetry in Gutters and Alley Ways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle (anthology, Lucid Moose Press), Red River, Connecticut River, Red Fez, Contrary, Pedestal, Spillway, and Pearl magazines; one of his recent short stories in Changing Harm to Harmony (Marin Poetry Center Press), his creative nonfiction in Halfway Down the Stairs, and his recent work of film criticism in The LUminary (Lancaster University, UK). Links available here.

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