Lee Harwood

(born 6 June 1939 / Surrey)

Central Park Zoo


for Marian

Looking at the zoo the great white park
of a misty winter’s afternoon “You’re great!
and I love you for it”
All the animals have their thick winter coats on
– the childish humour of this is so enjoyable –
A brass clock strikes the hour of three and
sets in motion mechanical chimes that are
beaten out by rampant bears and prancing monkeys
with heavy metal limbs jerking to the rhythm
– this obviously moves the crowd of children who’re
watching – some laugh with “joy”, others gasp with “wonder”

Let’s call this charming story “A day at the zoo” –
all essays to be handed in by the end of the week

But back to the winter and coats
It’s very crisp today and the air is clear
The buffaloes are magnificent and beautiful – they are a rich brown, and the hair is not matted as it was in summer “alas”
A pair of bobcats lie with their front paws round each other’s necks – like lovers – they lick each other’s fur (in turn) – it is a golden yellow
A pair of badgers
A pair of lynx
Two pairs of raccoons
and the grizzlies and polar bears lie sleeping in the sun

Let’s call this “The Peaceable Kingdom: A Painterly Reference”
or “Winter in the Zoo” or “A Day at the Zoo”
In fact let’s forget what we’ll call this
Instead let’s . . . returning to
the zoo in the corner of the park
the white mist hanging over the trees
The fact we can become children again
shows how right we were in
believing in our love despite the canyon
which we entered stumbling along the dark bed
of the Bad Water river
But we climbed out the other side
though taken by surprise on topping the rim
never having realised the end was so very near
But there it was – the herd of buffalo
grazing on the lush plains
Geography in our sense is exciting
Plotting the whole course now
Sunlight and the shadows of fast
moving clouds sliding across the grassland
I imagine North Texas or even Dakota Montana

“The end” only of this canyon but a continuation
of something greater compare it to a plateau
of great size and richness laced with gentle
deaths at its edges the spirits of the tribe
waiting with a deep love for us
It’s not so much of a descent either – but these
details can wait you see

“You’re great! and very wise” we laugh as
we reach the top of the rock outcrop
“and I love you for it”

We flower we continue from where we left off before
though the statement of this can only be
something secondary for us and therefore decorative
There’s no worry
“People of the World, relax!”
We walk among the animals
the cages upset you
When I really think I know you’re always right
there’s no worry we’re on the same planet
and so very lucky
that the poem should end like this
is very good

Submitted: Monday, May 16, 2011
Edited: Monday, May 16, 2011

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