When My Parents Were Hippopotamuses

by Alex Gallo-Brown

When my parents were hippopotamuses,
they grew tiny immaculate strawberries
and wore them on their fingers like rings.
They didn’t have to taste them—
they knew that they were extraordinary.
The president at that time was a reporter
from Long Island who supported
reparations for militant minorities
but also was able to trace
the contours of white people’s pain.
Most people used drugs
but the kinds that caused them
to broach indescribable universes,
not berate their friends into taking
more personal responsibility.
The buses were funded by vast
rich people who believed
competition would convert communities
into repositories of good will.
Their thinking was wrong
but people forgave them
because the buses were free.
Herbal tea solved most health problems.
The rest were addressed
by benevolent biker gangs
who rode from town to town
consoling the distraught and unwell.
My parents lived on a farm
in a saltwater pool
where they ate all the fish
they could catch
in their pink hippopotamus mouths.
Mostly they were silent
but sometimes they sang
the clearest songs
you can imagine.

Alex Gallo-Brown’s prose and poetry have appeared in publications that include Los Angeles Review of Books, The Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus, The Monarch Review, City Arts, and elsewhere. He lives in Seattle.