At the Zoo by Greg Watson

At the Zoo

The zoo was a much less joyful place
when I was a boy. The animals seemed sad
and weary behind their metal bars,
and we in turn were sad for them:
the great lumbering polar bear pacing
back and forth on its white slab of cement,
Sparky the seal swimming the same
tired circle endlessly, doing the same tricks
for the same slimy fish thrown daily,
by the same human demanding applause.
The gorillas and baboons looked you
in the eye, held you there, unnervingly, as if
you had an answer for all of this,
imploring you to recall the common tree
from which you emerged so long ago.
These days, with my daughter, the walk
is longer, the animals sometimes
harder to spot among their tangled
foliage, vast stretches of plain and rockface.
We walk for miles in the heat of summer,
not always seeing what we wish to see,
but if we are patient, the great cats
may stir from their slumber, flick their tails,
let out a mighty, rumbling roar which
my little girl has practiced and mastered
as well, both of them letting us know
who is really in charge here.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This conversational poem draws the reader into what seems like an ordinary life, until the final four lines remind us that parenting a child is anything but.