Poem of the Month
An Education

By Stephanie Bolster

Published on March 21, 2012

Zoos may have been allowed in parks partly because looking at animals was considered a more moral activity, associated with more polite standards of behavior, than, for example, going to the theater.

The animal knows nothing of Malaysia’s forest canopy. It roams where it can. Food appears. Sparrows land within the fence and go. Knows nothing of the Serengeti. Food appears. Night pivots into day. Crowds watch. Kids shout. Shops sell plastic versions. When it’s cold, the door to indoors opens. Secretive by nature, nocturnal in activity, the _____ ____ and ____ _____ live shrouded in mystery. Pads tread on tiles. Hé! le zèbre! Shit piles up. This hunched scavenger frequents carrion and garbage dumps, but also preys on rats, mice, fish, flamingos and insects. ________ spend hours nearly motionless. Mr. Giraffe? Is hosed down. Food appears. Birds land outside the bars. A few feet by a few feet. Watch it not move. Wook at de widdle waccoon. Buy a palmful of food from the dispenser. Mais il est où? Pourquoi il se cache? Pourquoi il ne bouge pas? Est-ce qu’il est mort? World of Darkness. World of Birds. _______ ____ were found nesting in Central Park. No one is quite sure why they left, but there is work underway to bring them back. It bit me! Wild Asia. The Mouse House. Vivarium. Fauverie. Swiss Garden. Jardin Anglais. Kids come to know the animal outside of pages. Food appears. Knows nothing of the Amazon. The enclosure hosed down. Kids come to love. On 19 June 1959 in _______, an ________ wolfed down 1,706 peanuts, 1,089 pieces of bread, 1,330 sweets, 811 biscuits, 198 orange segments, seventeen apples, seven ice creams and one hamburger! Knows nothing. Kids come.

The epigraph is from Elizabeth Hanson, Animal Attractions: Nature on Display in American Zoos. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002. p. 22. “Secretive by nature . . . ” and “This hunched scavenger” are passages from informational signage in the Bronx Zoo. “Mais il est où? . . . ” is a passage from W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell. Toronto: Knopf, 2001. pp. 263-264. “_______ ______ were found nesting . . .” is a passage from informational signage in the Central Park Zoo. “On 19 June 1959 . . . ” is a passage from Baratay and Hardouin-Fugier, Zoo, p. 183.

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