Zoo Story

Let’s not think about bears, or anything cute (and dangerous)
like a marriage, a first husband, and how things go wrong.

Let’s not contemplate how you used to call him your brown bear
(a gentle species) and held him close. He was brown, and warm,

something you used to enjoy until you didn’t and went off to marry
a stork, or a giraffe. Let’s call him that, a tall animal with his head

in the clouds who can barely see his feet. Hard to hug a giraffe
without threat of death, but that’s another zoo story we

won’t get into now. And what about you, you former hippo
now aging mama gorilla sitting on your staked-out hill,

watching the young ones play. For a gorilla in captivity,
you’re pretty happy, you are, you once married to a bear

and now a giraffe, mother to a chimp, a steadfast rhino, stepmother
to a moth and a gecko, daughter to nocturnal beast undiscovered.

The sun is shining. Someone will bring you food eventually.
Look at the ants, the trees, feel the wind blowing through your fur.

JESSICA BARKSDALE's second poetry collection, Grim Honey, and her fifteenth novel, The Play’s the Thing, were both published in 2021. Recently retired, she taught composition, literature, and creative writing at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, for thirty-two years; she continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.