There is nothing more animal-like
than a clear conscience
on the third planet of the Sun.
Wislawa Szymborska, In Praise of Self-Deprecation
A donkey with tumors on his penis
and hooves that curl toward his knees
hangs his head toward hot bricks, shifts
from hoof to hoof, a dance he does all day.
The elephants sway to this same rhythm
shackled to asphalt, straining for shade.
In a disused amphitheater, a concrete pit
where they used to have trained seal shows
monkeys race tight circles on short chains
orbits wearing concrete dark and polished
and a ribby wolf in a collapsing rusted cage
raises stiff bones, growls low when a girl nears
to watch them. She is dressed all in pinks.
We hear her say nothing. The sky darkens gray.
Tigers in barren dens lick sores, empty bowls.
Ever hear a tiger cry? They are quiet as the dead.
On our way out we hear them wailing,
children steered sobbing toward the gates
by hurried parents glancing skyward, fearing rain.