Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


At the Providence Zoo

Like the Beatles arriving from Britain,
the egret's descent on the pond
takes the reeds and visitors by storm:
it is a reconstructed marsh
environment, the next
best thing to living out your wild life.

                  *

Footbridges love the past.
And like the Roman questioner who learned
"the whole of the Torah while standing on one leg,"
flamingos are pleased to ignore us. It is not known
whether that Roman could learn to eat upside-down,
by dragging his tremendous head through streams.

                  *

Comical, stately, the newly-watched tortoises
mate; one pushes the other over the grass,
their hemispheres clicking, on seven legs
in toto. Together they make
a Sydney opera house,
a concatenation of anapests, almost a waltz.

                  *

Confined if not preserved,
schoolteachers, their charges, vigilant lemurs, wrens
and prestidigitating tamarins,
and dangerous badgers like dignitaries stare
at one another, hot
and concave in their inappropriate coats.

Having watched a boa
eat a rat alive,
the shortest child does as she was told?
looks up, holds the right hand
of the buddy system, and stands,
as she explains it, "still as a piece of pie."

Credit


Copyright © Stephen Burt from Parallel Play (Graywolf, 2006). Reprinted with permission of the author.

Author


Stephanie Burt

A poet, literary critic, and English professor at Harvard University, Stephanie Burt is the author of two poetry collections and a number of critical works.

Date Published: 2006-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/providence-zoo