To be sedated, handled with fingers,
the fear conquered and the animal harmless
like the ordinary orchids in the greenhouse,
its body just another thing to be tampered with.
I think of the young zoologist, his first time
in the field, lab work and books behind him,
hands calloused from too many chemicals.
How his body shudders now, this moment
with the animal of his wildest dreams.
It could be a lion, rhino, some poisonous snake.
It really doesn’t matter. He is caught
in this moment of pure closeness. He holds its paws,
hooves, wings, the pointed and useless fangs,
rough but firm like his grandmother’s hands,
as during that first trip to the zoo one summer,
a long time ago, before he forgot how
the sun exposes everything, alights gently
on the living, or the dead, and how everything ends up
being touched, even the fierce ones, even this animal—
for now familiar, for now almost like family.