At the Nature Museum, Feeding the Iguana with Mr. Henry

by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran


Once inside, I careen,
Keds squeaking, ignore
the “employees only” sign
and burst into the little kitchen.

I find Mr. Henry, whose hands,
large and deep set with wrinkles
have something of comfort

about them as he cuts carrots
and apples with a flat blade knife,
piles bits of fruit and nuts
into small blue bowls
while I perch on a stool, legs dangling.

His cart veers on wobbly wheels
as we walk the narrow space
behind cages with doors painted
with imagined landscapes.

He tells me about each animal
as I wait for him to release the latch
and gingerly place a bowl,
careful to avoid tooth or claw.

Behind the last door, an iguana.
It sits so very still.
I think it is stillness.

Yet I know it’s alive,
a coiled spring.

Mr. Henry places the bowl
beneath the branch
where its long tail hangs—
a plumb line measuring time and space
by some inward calculation.

It doesn’t hop, trundle, or scurry
over to inspect our offering.
Its manner speaks of dignity

and all I do not understand
of being displaced, of living
defined by limits and walls.

Nadine Ellsworth-Moran lives in Georgia where she works in full-time ministry while pursuing her love of writing. She is fascinated by the stories unfolding all around her and seeks to bring everyone into conversation around a common table. Her essays and poems have appeared in Interpretation, Structo, Thimble, Sonic Boom, Emrys, Kakalak, and Saint Katherine Review, among others. She hopes to continue listening closely and writing about the shared experience of life in these times, with particular interest in the joys and struggles of coming to understand the history, identity, faith, and culture of the modern South.