Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Literature and the environment II: the Minneapolis Zoo

Bill and I are in Minneapolis, and he suggested we go to the zoo this morning.  While zoos aren't quite my thing (animals in captivity tend to make me sad), compromise on holidays is.  It was fabulous, partly because it's a huge, really humane zoo and makes an important contribution to animal conservation.  Each didactic panel tells you how the animal you're looking at is doing in the wild.  I couldn't help write.

This is how we meet nature:
our hands against the glass,

ranks of us in limegreen daycare T-shirts
almost down to our fragile knees.
We believe the sea otter is drawn
to the reach of our curiosity,
can imagine him,
Ernest Borgnine-faced, curious
about us, the sparkly new barret,
the stuffed parrot, the proud ball cap.

Our hands against the glass,
we try to reach beyond distortions:
the African penguins who fly through water
fetch up as questions:
Are they three inches or nine beyond our grasp?
Is that feathers or fur, a tail or fin
they shake with glee as they surface?
(Is it glee?)

This is how we meet nature:
learning to see, to find the patience
without  words
for the colour and texture of snow monkey fur
slowly groomed in the sunshine.

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