Yesterday, a ten-year old newcomer to a zoo
Fought her new mate, broke
Out of her cage, and galumphed
Off zoo grounds, chased by three
Trucks of vets armed
With tranquilizer guns and one rifle--
And what sort of luck was it
That only the kill shot
Between the eyes could calm her?
And there were a pair of rhinos shipped
From Cleveland to China as a gift
Who died on the seventh day of their flatbed
Truck drive in one hundred degrees
Of dehydration. Until the zoo
Can find replacements,
They'll show the stuffed carcasses--
Cheaper than watering rhinos--
And there's profit from the magic
Horns, whose likenesses in wax
Convince from a distance.
And at my local zoo, one of two rhinos
Swallowed a racquetball
Which blocked its intestines,
And it died like dozens do a year--
Or was that the hippos?--
From balls tossed playfully
Into their confines (so maybe
You've even killed one yourself).
I know it sounds crazy,
But why can't I get the dry-mouthed rhinos
On a flatbed in China off my mind?
How they remind me of a little boy
Lost on his bike in the business district
Who asked me once for water
And what was his way home?
Added: Monday, July 7, 2014 / First appeared in MARGIE: The Journal of American Poetry. The St. Louis Poetry Center: Vol. 2, Fall 2004. Used with permission.
Renée Olander is author of American Dangerous (Backlash Press, 2018), a poetry collection, and chapbooks A Few Spells (Finishing Line Press, 2010) and Wild Flights (Black Bird Press, 2000). Her poems, prose and interviews with writers have appeared in anthologies, journals, blogs, and broadcasts including Forgotten Women, The Free State Review, The Writer's Chronicle, Verse and Universe: Poems About Science and Mathematics, Hawai'i Pacific Review: Best of the Decade 1997-2007, 13 th Moon, HEArt, and HEArt Online Blog, Writer's Block/89.5 WHRV-FM, and many others. A longtime teacher, caregiver, and activist, Olander lives in Norfolk, Virginia, and works at Old Dominion U.