Friday Poem

On Visiting Central Park Zoo

The animals, hanging around in forms,
are each resigned to be what each one is,
imprisoned twice, in flesh first, then in irons.
The Bactrian camel is adjusted or is not
as, with his humps collapsed for lack of need
for water and with useless tufts of hair
like hummocks on the great plains of his flanks,
he stands around in shape and chews
a curd of solace, whether bitter, bland, or sweet,
who knows? Such is his formal pride,
his gargoyle’s face remains a stone
assertion as he pisses in between his splayed,
seemingly rachitic legs and stays
that way, in place, for want of something else
to do, caught in his double prison all the time.
Whatever he is, he goes on being what he is,
although ridiculous in forced review,
perseverant in not doing what he need not do.

by Alan Duggan
New and Collected Poems
Ecco Press, New York, 1983