An excerpt from

Penned: Animals in Zoos in Poems
by Edited by Stephanie Bolster and Katia Grubsic

Irving Layton

At the Barcelona Zoo

When reading Heraclitos at the zoo
elephants, bisons, dromedaries
are a solid deception,
a fleshy denial of the flux
heís forever going on about

So are trained dolphins that blow trumpets;
do you mean to say the water buffalo
couldnít flop into the same stream twice
if he had a mind to? Iíll bet he can. Anyhow
of one thing Iím sure: he loses no sleep over it.

Itís the delicate pink flamingoes
with their brittle long pencil-like legs
that get me: feathered shapes of flame
that even as they move flicker out into darkness
or Anaximanderís apeiron

Itís mice, skunks, rabbits, ocelots
and the infinite variety of tenuous blooms
that speak to me of joyous impermanency
and of the Artist-God who shapes and plays with them
as I have shaped these words into a poem.

 

Marianne Moore

Excerpt from The Monkeys


winked too much and were afraid of snakes. The zebras,
supreme in
their abnormality; the elephants with their fog-colored skin
and strictly practical appendages
were there, the small cats; and the parakeetó
trivial and humdrum on examination, destroying
bark and portions of the food it could not eat.

 

Sylvia Plath

Excerpt from the Zoo Keeperís Wife


You wooed me with the wolf-headed fruit bats
Hanging from their scorched hooks in the moist
Fug of the Small Mammal House.
The armadillo dozed in his sandbin
Obscene and bald as a pig, the white mice
Multiplied to infinity like angels on a pinhead
Out of sheer boredom. Tangled in the sweat-wet sheets
I remember the bloodied chicks and the quartered rabbits.

You checked the diet charts and took me to play
With the boa constrictor in the Fellowsí Garden.
I pretended I was the Tree of Knowledge.
I entered your bible, I boarded your ark
With the sacred baboon in his wig and wax ears
And the bear-furred, bird-eating spider
Clambering round its glass box like an eight-fingered hand.
I canít get it out of my mind

How our courtship lit the tindery cagesó
Your two-horned rhinoceros opened a mouth
Dirty as a bootsole and big as a hospital sink
For my cube of sugar: its bog breath
Gloved my arm to the elbow.