Carol Ann Duffy

Queen Kong

I remember peeping in at his skyscraper room  
and seeing him fast asleep. My little man.  
I'd been in Manhattan a week,  
making my plans; staying at 2 quiet hotels  
in the Village, where people were used to strangers  
and more or less left you alone. To this day  
I'm especially fond of pastrami on rye.
I digress. As you see, this island's a paradise.  
He'd arrived, my man, with a documentary team 
to make a film. (There's a particular toad  
that lays its eggs only here.) I found him alone  
in a clearing, scooped him up in my palm,  
and held his wriggling, shouting life till he calmed. 
For me, it was absolutely love at first sight.
I'd been so lonely. Long nights in the heat 
of my own pelt, rumbling an animal blues.  
All right, he was small, but perfectly formed  
and gorgeous. There were things he could do 
for me with the sweet finesse of those hands  
that no gorilla could. I swore in my huge heart  
to follow him then to the ends of the earth.

For he wouldn't stay here. He was nervous.  
I'd go to his camp each night at dusk,  
crouch by the delicate tents, and wait. His colleagues  
always sent him out pretty quick. He'd climb  
into my open hand, sit down; and then I'd gently pick  
at his shirt and his trews, peel him, put 
the tip of my tongue to the grape of his flesh. 
Bliss. But when he'd finished his prize-winning film,  
he packed his case; hopped up and down 
on my heartline, miming the flight back home  
to New York. Big metal bird. Didn't he know  
I could swat his plane from these skies like a gnat?  
But I let him go, my man. I watched him fly 
into the sun as I thumped at my breast, distraught.
I lasted a month. I slept for a week, 
then woke to binge for a fortnight. I didn't wash.  
The parrots clacked their migraine chant. 
The swinging monkeys whinged. Fevered, I drank  
handfuls of river right by the spot where he'd bathed. 
I bled when a fat, red moon rolled on the jungle roof.
And after that, I decided to get him back.
So I came to sail up the Hudson one June night, 
with the New York skyline a concrete rainforest  
of light; and felt, lovesick and vast, the first
glimmer of hope in weeks. I was discreet, prowled
those streets in darkness, pressing my passionate eye 
to a thousand windows, each with its modest peep-show  
of boredom or pain, of drama, consolation, remorse.
I found him, of course. At 3 a.m. on a Sunday, 
dreaming alone in his single bed; over his lovely head  
a blown-up photograph of myself. I stared for a long time 
till my big brown eyes grew moist; then I padded away  
through Central Park, under the stars. He was mine. 
Next day, I shopped. Clothes for my man, mainly,  
but one or two treats for myself from Bloomingdale's.   

I picked him, like a chocolate from the top layer  
of a box, one Friday night, out of his room 
and let him dangle in the air between my finger  
and my thumb in a teasing, lover's way. Then we sat 
on the tip of the Empire State Building, saying farewell 
to the Brooklyn Bridge, to the winking yellow cabs, 
to the helicopters over the river, dragonflies.  
Twelve happy years. He slept in my fur, woke early  
to massage the heavy lids of my eyes. I liked that.  
He liked me to gently blow on him; or scratch,  
with care, the length of his back with my nail. 
Then I'd ask him to play on the wooden pipes he'd made  
in our first year. He'd sit, cross-legged, near my ear  
for hours: his plaintive, lost tunes making me cry.
When he died, I held him all night, shaking him  
like a doll, licking his face, breast, soles of his feet, 
his little rod. But then, heartsore as I was, I set to work.  
He would be pleased. I wear him now about my neck, 
perfect, preserved, with tiny emeralds for eyes. No man 
has been loved more. I'm sure that, sometimes, in his silent 
death, against my massive, breathing lungs, he hears me roar.