Saturday, May 26, 2007

Whose Zoo's Who's?


In the fondly remembered days of record stores and bootleg albums--those produced for fans rather than outright illegal copies of regular releases--the single best label for boots was called Trademark of Quality, and a friend of mine, William Stout (comics illustrator, film designer, and dinosaurs/Antarctica painter extraordinaire) was the man who illustrated most of the best jackets, for (in)famous releases featuring the Beatles, Stones, Led Zep, Neil Young, and many others. (Bill also did work for the beginnings of now-giant label Rhino Records--which kinda relates, as you will see.)

But he outdid himself fashioning full-color jackets (now very collectable) for double albums by the Yardbirds and the Who. I've reproduced one jacket as a brief introduction to the Art of Bill--more about my pal in postings to come--and to offer a serendipitous visual for the two poems I'm offering up today, both of which grew from zoo experiences, the first down under in Australia (where a plaque memorializes the slightly comical, long-ago visit there by Eleanor Roosevelt), and the second when Sandie and I were living across from the Seattle Zoo, right opposite bison, wolves, and many birds.

So today, after too many meaty mini-essays, maybe, I choose to be short and simple, which is of course what age does for you anyway: you get simpler (mentally) and shorter (physically). I hope someone enjoys the break...


Rhinocerudes, Sydney

In the midday heat, three rhinos
Lie collapsed, as indiscreet as winos
In their concrete habitat. Iron
Bars hold them back from the siren
Rumble of a lumbering breakout—
Boulder-massive even sprawled about.

Two of them sport gray-black
Convict stripes where their rack
Of ribs pokes out from inside
The topographic map of hide.
(One’s eyes twitch, and pigeons
Instantly hurl themselves to regions

Far removed from all rhinocerudes
With rough, unpredictable moods.)
Their ears curl up without fuss,
Scroll-like and cornucopious
Around the double horns—one nub,
The other sharpened by the rub

Of life, years before this prison.
But look! the third has risen,
A slow and cumbersome climb,
Lurching itself erect in time
To stand bemused, wondering
Where to go when, then blundering

Around the yard, through the slops,
A battle-worn Triceratops
Exiled from some prehistoric veldt.
A certain Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt
Once scrutinized two such corrugated
Beasts, struggling as they copulated

In this bleak, unaesthetic hole,
Then blurted, "Bless my soul!"
Inspired by the President’s wife,
Reformed by their penal life,
These model rhinos more and more
Are aging to resemble Eleanor.


Zoo Morning

Without malice, in ecstasy
of the day, the grey wolves
across the way are scattering
seagulls in a pinwheel flutter,
trotting to and fro amid
the glitter of wobbling wings,
dazzle so bright both gulls
and wolves flare nearly white,
sunlight firing the trellis
of nobby twigs and fencewire,
each dazed and glazed thing
chiming that spring impels
the sap of running and budding,
flapping and climbing--wolves
churning, birds spiring, great
wheel vibrantly turning
another notch today in always,
tattered white peacock
needing no cloak of light
to screech his word of praise.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

fond zoo daze and memories guy, and where did our friends the bison and brett go???

I Witness said...

to the Heaven of Animals; see excellent poem by James Dickey, and i hope to hear/see more from you anon.