Nick Lantz




as the dog scratches at the door

as bees carry pollen

as the parrot gives back each word

as geese form a great arrow, pointing

as the lion leaps the flaming hoop

as the beetle rolls its ball of dung

as the crocodile joins wildebeest to water

as the heron stoops

as all four of the horse’s hooves leave the earth at once

as the spider dares its silk tightrope

as the gibbon, swinging tree to tree, reaches out
with one hand, just as it lets the other go



          — after Walter Potter

It takes all four maps on the wall to contain
Her Majesty’s Realm, its warren of colonies.
The students, forty stuffed rabbits, sit
at eternal attention, bent over tiny slates,
studious as only the dead can be.

The lesson is Geology, the grind
of continent on continent. The lesson
is History, a lion dragging itself
into the desert to die. The lesson
is Astronomy, the frothy outer edges
of the Milky Way like a wave lapping
at a distant shore and then, spent,
falling back on itself.

But not even the best pupil, his long ears
turned heavenward, can hear the sound
of an empire dying above the silence
of his missing heartbeat.


NICK LANTZ is the author of the poetry collections We Don’t Know We Don’t Know (Graywolf Press, 2010), The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors’ House (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010), and How to Dance as the Roof Caves In (Graywolf Press, 2014). Nick earned his MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has appeared in Mid-American Review, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Poetry Daily, Blackbird, jubilat, and FIELD, and has been featured on the nationally syndicated radio program The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. He has taught creative writing at the University of Wisconsin, Gettysburg College, Franklin & Marshall College, the Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop, and Queens University’s Low-Residency MFA. He currently teaches in the MFA Program at Sam Houston State University and lives in Huntsville, Texas.

Read more by Nick Lantz:

Poem in Gulf Coast
Poem in Writer’s Almanac
Poem at Graywolf Press