In those first days, when I discovered

my lips, my tongue, my teeth,

and what they could do, I named

the other creatures without rhyme or reason,

named them first just to hear myself

speak, then to hear the different sounds

out loud: the click and smack,

the hiss and oh—but how could I

possibly remember all the names?

So I tried to find sounds to match—

to catch their squeal, their chitter and squeak.

I parroted their low bellows, hee haws. I gaped

and gawked, close then far, aped their odd

bulges, squat waddles, bulky shapes. To ferret out a name

or two or three, I stuck my nose in to sniff the awful

kick, stuck my tongue out to taste the salty sweet

lick, brushed names against cheeks and the backs of knees

to feel the heat and slick of them, reached underneath

to finger the tickling prick of them, but the more I

named the less they mattered until one day,

near drunk with the power of it, I stumbled

onto the secret of dominion: I decided—

gazelle or skunk—I named them

and forever after they were mine.