At The Zoo
He took me mainly to places of leave-taking –
Bahnhof Grunewald (Auschwitz, Belsen)
the grave of Heinrich von Kleist at the Wannsee
and airy galleries hung with paintings of death –
pulled me, running, through the tunnels of the S-Bahn
as if our lives depended on some west-bound train
we were about to miss. But the aquarium stopped us
in our tracks, we spent hours there, days
pressing our faces against the icy violet jellyfish
gliding on their eddies and back-draughts
their silken root threads quivering to pulse waves,
pulling against the vortex. Clasping cold fingers
we would eye the hybrid lives of the zoo –
feather-toed hens, dwarf donkeys, kangaroo-rats –
and dream a stampede of roaring ghost animals
in the Tiergarten, on the run from the trains.
The trees in the zoo’s park were still frozen
in their early bud, pushing small flowers into air
full of the mewling of unseen birds. Snowflakes
falling on the Spree were tiny gulls.
The yellow U-Bahn took us home, its bulbs rocking,
pale petals fluttering in the arc of its headlamps.
“At The Zoo” first appeared in Wasafiri, Issue 62, Summer 2010.