If Poetry Were a Zoo

203461_1043105893_7925013_n_biggerby Joshua Converse05 Jul 2013

If poetry were a zoo
You could wake up and in the early morning’s light,
catch the trolley to the foggy edge of town,
you could pay a dime, slide past the kiosk
where Whitman waits with wishes where eyes should be,
thumbing through Homer like a long-lost lover,
and there in the dawn’s pale gloaming
you could see the rhyme
and meter, stretch and yawn,
waking to sneer at Kerouac.

Caged and under glass,
etherized like a patient on a table,
the fragments of Sappho
would accuse you for the price of admission
“You burn me”

Angel-headed hipsters would sway in cages of their own making
and dark ladies would bark candy and popcorn,
with eyes that are nothing like the sun.

There is no red wheel barrow at the zoo,
to the consternation of those who remember the white chickens
and how much depended on having it,
but in the serpent exhibit, in the Milton section,
some graffiti:

No ideas but in things.

This place used to be a paradise.

Disgruntled beasts, howling,
unrecognizable but too dangerous to be let free
would hurl anthologies at the bars of their prison cells,
and later, when the moon rises they sing zaum poems to the darkness.

In the room women come and go,
Talking about the poems of Poe.
But in the tunnel, in the night,
A button is a button is a button is a fight.

And the zookeepers have all gone mad,
or else cannot be stopped from
weeping and tearing their clothing.
No one is sure why.
No one has asked.

The rosebuds are picked and picked and picked.
No virgins left to make much of
time. No
Petals left on the wet, black bough.

When they close the gates,
the one that says
“Abandon All Hope etc.”
is locked and bolted,
and bolted
and locked
and only
the lonely lost
lovers wander
among the enclosures,
looking for something,

they know not what.

If you visited the zoo,
If the zoo existed,
If poetry were a zoo