Lesley Wheeler

Feeling Good

Maybe they get off that way, although the posture can’t
result in a baby panda: Mei Xiang flat as half-melted snow
during this one fertile day per year, rump too low
for Tian Tian’s access, so he climbs up her foothills
and stands on her back, triumphant. Sexually
inventive zoologists built a platform in the bears’
favorite candlelit bamboo grove, hoping she’d trip
and land at an inviting angle and, holy romance, she did,
but chivalrous Tian Tian lifted her, she pancaked
alluringly, and he posed on her back again. The keepers
sighed like spring wind through pine needles.
All the keepers, yours and mine, are sighing.

Today, on Panda Cam One, a two-toned sleeper
in a dim enclosure. Nose almost touches knees. Belly
rises, belly sinks. A midnight paw twitches like my own
hand on the pillow. Click a link and see the other
half-reclined against a painted backdrop of mountains.
He or she gnaws at leafy shoots, thinking of obduracy

and desire. There are many pleasures, most of them
stupid. Fullness. Oblivion. The view from another animal’s
shoulders, or low down in the dew, when every furry particle
yields to gravity’s persistence, gives up, gives out, gives in.


Lesley Wheeler is the author of four collections, including Radioland and Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize. Her chapbook Propagation is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press, and her poems and essays appear in Crab Orchard Review, Ecotone, Massachusetts Review, and other journals. The Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, she blogs about poetry at https://lesleywheeler.org/ and spies on pandas at https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/panda-cam. The sweet she craves most often, sadly, is Giapo’s chocolate-hazelnut sorbet in Auckland, New Zealand, but she is willing to consider substitutes.

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