the expedition
by Bill Rector

On Madagascar, that single-funneled tugboat
tending the great container ship, Africa,
the smallest chameleon in the world has been found.
Such discoveries are a regular occurrence there,
like forest fires and religious holidays.
The newest, smallest chameleon
fits easily on the winding stem of a watch,
a seismometer’s trembling arm,
or the unstruck head of a match.
It is best seen with a jeweler’s loupe in a lemur’s eye.
It is so small, it raises the question,
How was it discovered?  What are we afraid of?

by Bill Rector

Embedded in your phone
or the cloud
or glowing in the dash
as you navigate the night

is a platform
that details where you are,
directions to your destination,
and the way back home again.

Take off your hat.
Look at the evening sky.
Like the Star the platform
provides North but also much more:

time of day, sunrise and sunset,
when the moon
will once again cross the dark
lake in a birch bark canoe.

Have you ever waited so long
for a ride to come
that when you awoke now
and then had become

a single word?
As though calipers
of starlight closed on your temples,
then opened, and something inside

had been measured?
Bright windows.
The Twentieth Century Limited
flashes past in the opposite direction.


Bill Rector is a practicing physician, but most of his poetry does
not have a medical theme.  He has been published in a variety
of well-known journals and was until recently poetry editor of
The Yale Journal of Humanities and Medicine.  His first book
of poetry,
bill, was published by Proem Press.

On “the expedition” and “the platform”:
“the expedition” began with an article, perhaps in National
, about the recent discovery of the world’s smallest
chameleon in Madagascar.  I knew immediately that the story
was also a poem.  I also understood that it had to be a very
small poem, and falsely matter-of-fact, i.e., in prose.  Several
things hovering in my brain about Madagascar, including its
odd appearance on a map, its association with lemurs, and
the recent destruction of its forests, crept into its few lines.  
The ending just happened.  

“the platform” is of course an elaboration of the reach of the
cell phone.  Several expansive images from poems that had
previously dissolved—calipers on the head, the moon as a
canoe, and the Twentieth Century Limited (I love the fact
that trains have names)—associated themselves with the
project.  This was a very slow poem to form, over years, like
a fossil.   

Previous page  Apple Valley Review, Fall 2014  Next Page
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 9, Number 2
(Fall 2014)

Copyright © 2014
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.
the platform