The lions mope around with their heads and eyes down,
feeling the cold blanket of sorrow as they nap
on the warm ground. Their stomachs growl and pull
at their ribs, gnawing and nudging at them to turn
and gaze at the gazelle only a hundred feet north.
Except the lions’ eyes know the sharp, silver wire
that surrounds them and the electric fence that sends
prickling pains down their spines. Every day
they see the meat lying before them, so close
they can taste it on their tongues, but the rumbles
that are a knife in their stomach will never fade away.
The large tiger paces around in circles. The crowd,
peering in through the walls of glass, cheers when she passes by.
Tigers may sink their teeth into prey alone,
but this one no longer hunts. Instead, she’s busy
stalking the familiar grass without ever seeing a fellow tail.
Monkeys may be known for their glistening grins,
rummaging fingers through one another’s fur,
carrying colorful toys, and taunting humans
with pink tongues poking from their lips.
But even their eyelids grow heavy and their limbs soft
entrapped in their cages. Once, they might have gaped
at thousands of trees to climb and flourishing leaves
to swing beneath, but these primates only have
a few fake branches and a deflated red ball.
Gorillas may be bulging with muscle, but a four-hundred-
pound male merely squats on the ground, letting
his belly flop out exposed, as he scratches his chin
with his wide hands and looks off into the distance.
His eyes wander, and everyone in his troop silently nods,
knowing that he’s the thinker of the group, the philosopher.
Yet the down-curled lips and wrinkles in his drooping face
tell the pairs of staring eyes that there are more than images
of mouths stuffed with pale banana skin flashing in his mind.
Perhaps the zoo life isn’t all it’s made out to be.
Daniel Boyko is 16 years old; he lives in Short Hills, NJ. Daniel is a Genre Managing Editor for Poetry for Polyphony Lit and states that, "wherever my dog is, I can't be far behind. Daniel's previously published poem by The Telling Room is titled, "The Wisest."
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