I'd heard so much good
about this place,
how the animals were cared for
in special exhibits. But
when I arrived I saw even
prairie dogs had gone crazy in
the viewing pits; Javelina had no mud to
squat in, to cool down; Otter was
exposed on every side, even in his den.
Wolf paced like a mustang,
tongue lolling and crazy-eyed,
unable to see anyone who looked like
he didonly Deer, dozing opposite in
a chainlink pen.
the animals are good because
they kill animals who like oats
or corn too much.
Skunk has sprayed himself out,
with people rapping on his glass
box. Badger's gone to sleep
under a red light and children ask
if he's dead in there (dreaming of dead
Cougar stares like a clubbed fish
into one steel corner all morning, figuring.
Only Coyote doesn't seem to care, asleep under a
creosote bush, waiting it out.
Even the birds are walled up here,
held steady in chicken-wire cages for
the staring, for souvenir photos.
And this, on the bars for Eagle:
The bald eagle was
taken as a fledgling
from a nest in New
Mexico by an
Indian. He planned on
pulling feathers for cer-
every year. The
federal government seized
the bird and turned
it over to the
Bear walks in his own
pee, smells concrete
and his own shit all day long.
He wipes his nose on the wall,
trying to kill it.
At night when management is gone,
only the night watch left,
the animals begin keening: now
voices of Wood Duck and
Turtle, of Kit Fox and everyone else,
Bear too, lift up like the bellowing
of stars and kick the walls.
14 miles away, in Tucson, are movie houses,
cold beers and roads out of town,
but they say animals know how to pass the time
well enough. And after a few beers
they'll be just like Indians
get drunk, fall down and spoil it all.
Barry Lopez, Desert Reservation, Copper Canyon Press, 1980.