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Danielle DeTiberus: Selection Pressures

—After Colin M. Donihue’s August 2018 report “Hurricane-induced selection of the morphology of an island lizard”



Or, How to Alleviate Anxiety by Reading 

About Caribbean Reptiles Holding on for

Dear Life. Because lizards with the stickiest 

toes are rewarded with another hurricane 

season, a round of leaf blower tests. 


And those without are just plain unlucky. 

Or, How to Withstand the Next Gale. Because 

I wanted this poem to be about tenacity: 

how the anolis body learns to survive if it trusts 

itself. All claws and crouch. See, I wanted 


a metaphor in thighs turned sails in the wind. 

Because our bodies betray us. Or, How to be 

a Woman in 2020. Because I used to believe 

in progress. Or, How to be White in 2020. 

Because I mistook my privilege for faith. No 


matter how much I want to look at the new-leaf

green anole dart outside my window and see 

myself— it refuses to serve as a stand in for 

the human condition, my mood this morning. 

No sea-jewel breeze of Turks and Caicos here, 


no throat pulse of red warning danger. Only a man, 

standing in line at Lowe’s, red leaf blower and blue 

electrical tape in his cart. Unlike the lizard, 

we can imagine his dreams. He’s held countless 

jars of pickled lizards. He is—like all people 



waiting in line— a little sad. He looks down 

at his feet. Maybe Tevas or tennis shoes. 

Nothing like his beloved anoles. He will leave 

his queue to go back for a net because 

he’s convinced himself that he loves lizards. 


Even as test lizards A through E struggle 

to grip the wooden dowel he’s placed 

in front of a camera. Or, How to Gaslight 

a Lizard and Get Published. Because he loves 

the lizards, he loves himself. Finds purpose 


cranking the leaf blower up in paradise, poring 

over hours of footage— that moment the anole

can no longer hang on. Look, he will say. 

This is how a species survives: under threat,

clinging. Watch it learn to bear the wind,


to slump down a little lower on the bark.

Or, Why I’ll Never Be the Lizard or the Trees 

or the Hurricane or Even the Goddamned

Leaf Blower. In this poem, I am just off camera—

the restless woman behind the scientist 


in line at Lowe’s. I, too, am sad. And 

looking for clues, a pattern. Desperate 

for a little fishing line lasso to catch me gently 

by the neck. Lead me someplace I can’t tell 

the difference between weather and man. 


Between net and absence of net. Or, Even 

Those Who Want to Save Me Build a World 

in Which I Fall. Or, Survival is a Body 

that Has Learned How to Bend From 

All the Broken Bodies that Could Not.








Copyright 2022 Danielle DeTiberus

Danielle DeTiberus teaches at the Charleston School of the Arts, and she is the Program Chair, Poetry Society of South Carolina.

 

One comment on “Danielle DeTiberus: Selection Pressures

  1. loranneke
    May 23, 2022

    Ah such a good poem, Danielle, you make me proud (again!)!

    Liked by 1 person

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