At the Zoo

Winter, 2018–2019 / No. 42

We fed bread slices to snakes.

They swallowed them whole.

Satisfied, we left them lying

with fat lumps in their throats.

At the seal display

Phyllis played Debussy on her clarinet.

They barked, howled

and drowned themselves to “La mer.”

The otters demanded an encore.

Manny taught the gorillas

how to shit in front of the crowds.

The great apes weren’t so great

except when they drank the sherry

we left by their cage.

After we told the giraffes

their numbers were endangered

they circled in their pen

and tied knots in their necks.

We rode the elephants into

the gift shop

traded their ivory

for toy elephants

fed cigarettes to the camels

painted the zebras black

unleashed hyenas in the food booth

taught the baboons how to shoot chimps

launched penguins at parrots

and gored the rhino with his own callused horn.

Skinned the lions with the claws

of a sloth, waving their pelts

like bloody flags

and with the teeth of the last lonely polar bear

crowned ourselves: kings

of the concrete, cages

and rubble.

Tara Azzopardi lives at the end of a dirt road in eastern Ontario, where she farms organic garlic and makes art and music. Her second book of poetry, Or God, was published in a special edition letterpress by O Underworld, in 2017. Last updated winter, 2018–2019.