Anywhere You Like

ANIMAL SENDAI

'What was it he did a tail 
at all on Animal Sendai?'
James Joyce

On a normal Sunday inside the zoo's
fenced precincts families traipse
over crazed asphalt, collapsed curbs
down what seem suburbs' avenues;
have themselves snapped near brute
beasts, dumb animals, the creatures
of our curiosity in cages, pens,
or smiling from behind the bars
of an unlocked cell marked: homo sapiens -
but only for a moment; there they are
a bit like Parma wallabies
surviving though their seasons
come upside down, a polar bear
who just copes with the climate
and big cats basking in a winter sun's
fitful warmth; far shrieks, far cries -
I'm putting in a word for them.

I'm putting in a word
for glimpses of Miyagi bay's
swerving shore grown visible
through clearer air, the wind chill
round picnic spots and angled boughs 
of cherry, plum, the cedar, pine;
for grassblades that two elephants uproot
or take out of each other's mouths;
a word for those crazed monkeys,
their sorrowful noises overhead;
for flakes of gravel, a mandril's gaze,
dog fox's stink; for the laughing hyena
in yet another humdrum dusk
where a smith's gazelle with broken horn
screams out against the isolation -
and by this prison house of their days,
its shabbiness, I'm putting in a
word for these things mute.

Published in :
  • Notre Dame Review issue 8 (place / displacement), summer 1999
  • PN Review 131 vol. 26 no. 3, January - February 2000
Included in :