South Fork Poetry: ‘Aardvarks’

By Philip Schultz

It’s summer and the Jitney is packed,

every seat taken, except for the one

across the aisle, in which a man

has barricaded his window seat with

a briefcase and jacket, an act meant

to confront others with his superiority.

Munching chips and guffawing at

a YouTube video of an obese woman

riding a scooter down a country road,

towing a younger obese woman

in a wheelchair, he reminds me

of a neighbor’s dog that would steal

and bury our dog’s bones, then growl

defiantly on his side of our fence.

Pythagoras believed our souls ended up

inside the bodies of animals selected

as rewards and punishments.

The three giggling girls behind me,

stretching their legs into the aisle

every time the shy attendant passes,

forcing him to stutter apologies

in a Slavic accent — Poodles, probably.

Pythagoras also believed the shapes

of numbers symbolize our significance.

Well, sequestered here between work

and family, thought and dreaming,

I’m probably some kind of numinous digit

slowly evolving into, say, an aardvark

hurling down the highway inside a bus

camouflaged as a vodka bottle, on its way

to a barricaded future on the far side

of a fence where all our significance is buried.

Philip Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who lives in East Hampton, will read from new work at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor on Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. with Grace Schulman of Springs, poet and professor of English at Baruch College. “Aardvarks” previously appeared in Slate.