Animal Kingdom

Amy Roa

The first finback whale took an evolutionary leap onto land,
and the president was on TV,
shaking the whale’s fin,
all sleek and blubber.
All that was on a Tuesday.
On Wednesday, my parents adopted a small,
elderly Chinese man to be my little brother.
They set him up on a high chair and wrapped their arms around him.
He bowed his bald head and gurgled with joy.
My new brother ate all the meat in the freezer
and often swatted the flies in his room at night,
leaving his dead all over the floor.
I came home from school every day
and sat next to him.
I told him all the new things I’d learned.
I said, “the finback whale’s finally balanced on its new legs
and dances with wealthy women.
It wants to buy a gun, big like a house.”
My new brother swayed his body back and forth like an ocean,
remembering when, ages ago,
we swum beneath ice sheets,
before we too descended from the animal kingdom.

Amy Roa is a poet whose poems have appeared in Quarterly West, The Antioch Review, and The North American Review. She lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.
Originally published:
January 1, 2019

Featured

Conversations

Emily Ogden and Dana Spiotta

Reckoning with middle age and complicity
Emily Ogden
and
Dana Spiotta

The Stakes of Dictee

An introduction to a famously difficult work
Ken Chen

Theater of Shame

The rise of online humiliation
Charlie Tyson

Subscribe

New perspectives, enduring writing. Subscribe to The Yale Review and receive four beautiful print issues per year.
Subscribe