Wednesday, September 01, 2010

In The Dead Zoo

Fin Whale, Dead Zoo, Dublin
They’ve taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.

Seamus Heaney

Aflame with antlers,
almost tapping the ceiling, a roof-raiser
bursting with sex and death.

Should we view it from over or under –
stand on the tiled floor
or the tundra?


More inscrutable than the Sphinx:

the trophy-head of a rhino
shot and stuffed over a century ago

by Colonel Spinks.


Where is he,
my frog-hunting, 12 year old self,
soft-eyed hoarder
of Wildlife magazines, dogged haunter
of ditches and bogs?



the rhino’s tarry flesh
just yet –

wait for the rat kangaroo
and the parchment bats

to undo.


Here, touching what
he should not:
an elephant’s cunt,
a wound
in an old coat.


How to fade
from a dazzling op-art zebra
into just that shade
of sepia.


Upstairs, along the galleries,
dust-coloured moths and butterflies

(ribbons from an antique war)
recall the killing jar,

though one or two
flash – forget-me-not blue


Or here, this boy who holds
to his hiding place among
the grown-up coats hung
in a glass wardrobe.


Creaking Victorian ark
whose hold is a maze
of mirrors, our faces
float over the glass
eyes of your great
and less great apes,
your frozen tableaux
(white hares in the snow
from a snow globe),
libraries of learned
dust which is not returned.


The Fin Whale’s skeleton,
suspended on wires, swims
overhead. Its mammal spine
(black against fogged glass)
is an x-ray that might pass
for all of us.

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