Marcel Brouwers

(after Catullus)

(even at the backdrop of the credits
you are suckling & she sighs for you
or rubs the soft ball of her fist in her eyes
as if waking from uncoordinated sleep

to see your mother's rejection—aah, you poor baby
you scrounge, you burrow deep in flesh, more, aah
& then I (& then the announcer explains that naming
pandas twice is love, Ping-Ping, and She-

She snuggled with the best of them thinking
if I were them, I'd be eating bamboo for days
(for four days the trainers forced them to continue
their species, she's in heat, inject her now

& I would pull the plunger back & (I'd take back
everything if you could make it, the lab
and the surveillance failing to progress
and she were reading this over your shoulder



'Panda Babies,' came out of my reading a secondhand Collected Catullus book and my attempt to write a different kind of poem for myself. Relatively consistent criticism from teachers and readers about parentheses encouraged me to straddle the fence and keep things open-ended all the way through. Beyond forcing myself to alter the structure of my poems, this poem deals with the same issues as most of my other recent work, namely the loss of a loved one to cancer. She loved watching the PBS documentary about pandas—it brought toothy grins and thoughts of far away places.