Zoo by Michael Basinger

another afternoon losing hold on the park

tree shadows

the veined and mottled outstretch

fulfilling space behind the failing light

remorseless liquid rust


where it touches the iron bars

they are frozen brittle in premonition

fetid magic conjured with the place-name zoo

conjured as an iron lesson for the objectively undead

conjured by means of paired gray wolves

their lives zebra’d by the shadow of the cage

their hips joined in a cream swirl

their bellies flat against concrete

their flesh conceding the first tears of fat

a flesh longing for ritual

for the tireless joy of the hunt

for that sense of community

passed timeless through the loins of the pack


but even without wilderness in each drawn lung

even in a theater of the deaf

some ritual is joined

the female squeezes shut her eyes

to untangle herself from the sacrilege

and gives her voice to the music


the howl is a clear-throated fog

a dance of unknown colors emerging from darkness

it swirls up with feather edges

settles graceful into pools

becomes the evening


the wolfsong ends

we are not redeemed

the crowd stares and forces a laugh

we fear the howl because it has no straight lines in it

nothing to even the language into before and after

nothing to implicate cause

no thing promising effect

so shivering by the fire

we mock the howl

and we are not redeemed from toneless lives

from transcendent fatigue

muting color and sound

straining even renewal

’til eyeless sunset spreads throughout like a wound

all the wolfsong is a rattle in our throat

we mock the howl

we bare our tongues

but my two friends

I cannot help you

the open places are almost fenced

and the legs of the hunt broken

Categories: Issue 1 - Fall 2011, Periodicals, Poetry | Leave a comment

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