Mine is timid
and is known to bite
if he feels cornered—
sometimes I believe
he feels threatened
by the cage he imagines
I must have hidden
in one of my many rooms.
He lives for long walks
in the woods
where he can stop
whenever he needs to pee,
or has a wish to investigate
the marvelous array
and his endurance
is more than
(or at least equal to) mine,
and I can take him
without worry he’ll run off
and never return—
his loyalty is a mix
of curiosity and restraint—
but I think his devotion
has something to do
with the way I scratch his ears
and rub his belly
and let him sleep in my bed—
but I suspect
he’s always ready to bolt
if I lean in too close
or hug him
a little too tight.
“Master Bedroom” by Andrew Wyeth, 1965
Maybe love isn’t the answer
to the question of happiness
which was never part of the plan
when the cells
that would become us
were dividing into our ancestors
who never knew how easy
life would be in the future
with sharp tools and wheels
we are no longer required
to believe in or praise
for giving us a desire for love
that many of us will never find
so it seems like a good idea
to bury our hearts
in a mass grave dug
with a mass-produced shovel
and seek unconditional devotion
in the divine and perfect form
of cat or dog.
He was just
a little bird
in your love
for 13 years
he ended up
and you knew
some kind of
into your life
when he died
leave the ground
as if Sporobolus
to take you
but you were
for his wings
onto the couch
My two children are laughing in the back seat
and I’m behind the wheel of this small enclosure
driving 70 miles an hour about to cry
because the orangutans were supposed to be
the highlight of this summer day—
this guilty pleasure of visiting the zoo.
Last summer, we peeked through the fence
and marveled at the new construction
which promised to be a state of the art exhibit
for the special creatures who were displayed
already on a temporary bulletin board
with photos and names and personality traits.
But the grand façade, it seemed, was a grand façade.
The large enclosure was industrial and colorless
without a single tree or boulder or cushion of earth.
And the transparent walls of windows allowed us
to put our hands together, to lock eyes,
to imagine what it would be like on the other side.
We mustn’t forget where we came from.
We’re as wild as the animals we hate to be compared to
and as interested in staying alive
as the gazelles grazing together
in the vulnerable openness of the plains.
We should be commended for our attempts
to nurture our morality, that byproduct of cooperation
that has given humans the slight advantage
in accumulating a population
which relies on numbers.
And though our competitive nature
has given birth to wars and gods we only imagine
are on our side, we can still feel sorry
for those outside our in-group,
who work for peanuts to make the clothes we like to wear
and the ones who clear the dishes after dinner,
make our beds and clean the floors.
We convince ourselves they have a choice, that captivity
isn’t the right name for it, that it is our right and privilege
to be hungry, or to devour.