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