On your next visit to the Zoo
(The kids begged you there, perhaps, or it was your turn to chaperone
the 5th grade Field Trip, or maybe you had visions
of popcorn on a fall day, and camel rides,
and innocent apes instead of masturbating bonobos),
When you tire of watching the elephants
Rocking back and forth in despair;
Or the polar bear in 98 degree heat,
His coat yellowed, and the lump of ice in his pool a mockery;
When you've seen the sea lions at their twice-a-day feeding,
Jumping and posing for fish in the shit-tinged
10,000 cubic feet of water,
Then go, thou, to the Reptile House,
Spare a glance for the lizards and the tortoises,
For they were old when your kind wobbled upright
on the sunburned savanna,
But pass them quickly and seek out the snakes.
It might be, if you watch them long enough,
The Burmese python looped upon her branch,
The coral snake a puddle of ivory, jet, and dull rubies,
The cobra with Buddha's mark upon his hood,
The gopher with his checkerboard belly,
That you understand they do not care about you, your overdraft,
Your mortgage or your cellulite or grace by redemption.
They know your ambient temperature,
With a pink flicker they taste your pheromones,
They see the serpent coiled around your brainstem,
woven into your cerebellum,
Embedded in your hypothalamus.
You might realize,
with the stink of the monkey house still in your nostrils:
They are wiser than you.
They are what you have been.
They are what you will become.
About the Author:
Samantha Henderson lives in Southern California
with mysteriously increasing numbers of corgis and rabbits. Her work can be seen
online at Strange Horizons, The Fortean Bureau, Ideomancer,
Abyss and Apex, Neverary, Would That It Were,
Bloodlust-UK, and the archives of Lone Star Stories.