Life and Dis-Life in the Late Anthropocene

We try to share so much as we can of what we hope
Might be the animals’ freedom,
what’s left of it behind the barriers,
pacing ruts round and round the airy cages
behind the bars, the plexiglass,
the clever moats: the lies,
the optical lies that lie before and behind bars,
or on either side of moats,
the silent lies of imitation horizon.

We share such little as we can of the anger we anticipate we would feel,
trapped as we are on the other side,
pacing for food, hiding nowhere—

We’ve been walking through the zoo now for many years, almost fifty.
Same zoo.
Watch the animals

Picnics.
Kids loved the zoo.
We all did. We all did.

But I can’t say we have ever been to the zoo without feeling this vague
guilt for the killing that made a zoo the only world
left for the animals,
the choking gall of irony behind it,
and the anger.

But whose anger?
Ours partly.
Animals’ maybe.

We duck our heads and run for the inner comfort and gloom
of our fabricated lair, and the conscience we consume
when we visit the zoo.

Our kids all grown, we still pretend for them, alone.

Only the flying creatures,
descendants of the fourth freedom of evolution,
are free here at the zoo.

The lesser among us, we will not fly.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.