EMPIRE At the salt lick one day, a farmer sees a tiny, scale model of ancient Rome, complete with aqueducts and a tastebud Coliseum, growing on one of his cow's tongues. Though not a classicist, the farmer's concerned that consumption or after-mastication of rough cow sustenance could devastate the prodigy. With the help of a friend stroking and stroking the underside-of-an-eave- sized throat to coax prolonged protrusion of the trowel-sized future sandwich, the man sets his finger down at the city gates, affording safe egress to nearly microscopic inhabitants busy making money, intrigue, wine; none takes advantage of the chance, believing in the country, that all roads lead to it. ZOOKEEPER One part of him is aware that changes have to be made as he steps out of soggy shoes, unwinds the flashlight's cord--circling his wrist, letting gravity and the twisted line propel a dance that grows chaotic just before the cord ovals open over the heel of his palm and slips down to fingers crooked to keep it from falling. As he flips his office wall switch, a furry shadow shrinks into the corner. Somehow newspaper has gotten stuck to it. TALK We stop for gas and food. Wide streets. Slant-parked cars. We haven't slept together in weeks. You said let's drive until we find a place to talk. 500 miles later, shops on the main drag look honest because they're too worn to lie. We have the sidewalk almost to ourselves, buy a paper with the latest high school scores, sunlight taking a slow nap in large park trees down the block. There's nothing to say and we say it now in so many words. When afternoon opens its eyes and looks uncomfortable around us, we reassure it with a kiss.
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