Friday, September 02, 2005

The Zoo

The recurring theme, the implicit message,
is to stay the same. Elsewhere,
the important creatures struggle to let go
of all they have experienced: the tried-on afternoons,
old clothes. They would welcome the strangeness
of, perhaps, a Cassowary: some bird
extinct in their minds for they have not seen it.

A girl stands in front of a rusty cage.
Nothing moves inside. The floor is unclean.
A large python is curled up dead or sleeping
in a corner. A piece of wood is nailed
recklessly above the cage, stating
the scientific name of the animal inside.
But this doesn’t matter: the girl cannot see

past the vertical grids. And she cannot read.
She is four years old and simply confused
by the color of rust and the smell.
Her mother is pointing at the snake. The girl’s
eyes follow her mother’s fingers. She begins sucking
on her thumb. Meanwhile, her father
is making weird noises, flailing his hands.

Her parents lead her to the aviary. The birds
make her happy. She screams with delight.
So many colors, so much grace.
Then they visit the gorillas. The frenzied jumping
and swinging frighten the girl. She throws a fit.
She pulls at her hair and her pink dress. So that
the visit to the zoo has to end early.

They head on home, the cars outside unmoving,
reticulating throughout the city. The girl is sucking
on her thumb. Her parents are making wild noises,
their hands swinging dangerously.
In bed, late that evening, the girl would wake
with a start, with some unbearable pain,
the beginning of a sadness that she’ll keep

all her life. The birds alone will comfort her,
the possibility of flight. Elsewhere,
the recurring theme, the implicit message,
is to stay the same.