The Unicorn of Florida

I

The natives wear bits of horn about their necks
and affirm they derive from a beast that,
coming to the river to drink,

puts its singular horn into the water first.
Men of our company have procured some pieces
at negligible expense, as have the French,

enough so that, it must be supposed,
there are unicorns—which, for want of time and people,
have not been found. I trust God

will reveal their whereabouts before long,
to the great profit of those who hunt them down.
Of beasts in this country

besides deer, fox, hare, polecat, leopard,
and the native peoples, I am unable to say;
but it is thought there are lions and tigers as well.

Of the enmity between lion and unicorn,
we having been continually informed.
There is no beast but has his foe:

the sheep, the wolf; the elephant, the rhinoceros;

the king, his lords—nay, other kings;
and so on. Where a lion reigns,

the unicorn cannot be missing.

II

The captain saw a serpent with three heads
and four feet, the size of a spaniel,
which, for want of a harquebus,

he dared not attempt to slay.
There are, as well, fish the size of smelt
to be seen flying along the coast.

Upon land and sea, there are many fowl;
but on land I, your Adam, was unable to name any,
my abode was so short. On fresh rivers,

these two be chief: the flamingo,
having red feathers, and long red legs like a heron,
and an egret, white as the swan,

that has in her tail feathers
so fine a plume, it surpasses the ostrich.
All the year long this place is the green of Eden,

which is to say, of summer in England.
Once a day, without fail, they have a shower.
If not for the want of gold,

foretold in abundance—the very thing we have,
to our cost, daily endeavored to find—
this would have been Paradise

a moment before the fall, or just after.

About Debora Greger:
Debora Greger’s new book of poems, By Herself, was published by Penguin in 2012. She is the Poet-in-Residence at the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Florida.