you to your own bleak wraith. It animalised
the pious among us, and enflamed
savagery in the worst. My stomach
would wake you with aggrieved whale-song.
the main gate and we stole in,
The night-keeper, for a cut, neglected
secreting honed implements. Which cage
first? you urged: I poised the skeleton-
key, like the tuning-fork of our greed.
my shoulder. Famished souls, granted
But Claude the historian clamped
release and meat, have sometimes failed
to survive their too-eager wolfing. The
irony! he simpered, unhinged from his fast.
House, doing as the Romans
So we launched off small, in the Rodent
did, with raw dormice and gerbils as toothsome
amuse-bouches. Relief and revulsion
conjoined in unanimous tears.
litter-bin braziers, we delved for bulkier
As Victor the arsonist stoked
appetisers: you potted a brace
of dreaming marmoset, I bagged
an iguana and several boomslangs
braceleting my wrist in the dark.
the butcher, they fattened the ranks
Skinned and skewered by Camille
of coypu and wallaby, ibis
and ibex, already sizzling on spits,
wafting their symphony of odours...
rending hanks to gorge. But these were mere
We siezed on the flesh like hyenas,
hors-d’oeuvres: the orgy magnified
as night staggered on and locals thronged,
woken from meat-dreams by the reek of meat.
is sudden satiety after famine:
If hunger’s a delirium, so too
you giggle tipsily, hardly
crediting how sublime an underdone
tapir’s haunch can taste, or the devilled brain
of a sloth. But more and more citizens
clamoured in, lusting for a bite,
and more and more creatures fell victim:I recall a mob with ropes and hatchets
felling the giraffes like a teetering pine-grove;
up an elephant to dismantle it
a clan of Congolese mountaineering
with their machetes, children darting
inside its gouged abdomen
to hack out the heart and viscera.
Devouring that still-pulsing bellowsof blood, they believe they inherit
the elephant’s soul, his vital animus.
in the stable of what were probably
Coming round next morning, sprawled
moose, the soul of every beast I consumed
bore down on me, their every essence
possessing my body, pleading their unsaid
grace. As deathly heartburn
assailed me you stumbled in, horror-struck:
‘The night-keeper tricked us – he eatsno meat. He’s locked us up inside the zoo.’
Footnote: “He stumbled into a city that was starving to death – the people had even been reduced to eating the animals in the zoo” Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel, Edmund White.
(First published in Long Poem Magazine 7)