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Today’s contagion bred, breath to breath,
a captive audience: by word of mouth
or surge of sight: enclosed
and turning to the bazaar
of oddballs / menageries
of mismanagement, awaiting
one-hundred-and-thirty-two million
screen-lit eyeballs
and never enough blinks
and never enough seconds to stop
the next episode from slippering onto

Rippling in sequins [blue / green / silver]
the showman bends to kiss his tiger
like the showmen bent to kiss their tigers
in extravaganzas of Orients
fascinating natures
wrested from further
and shrinking corners
of something ‘other’

But the mayor, the prosecutor
the cop and the executioner
of his own dustbowl empire
is so busy with his zoo
that he can’t see the animals
between the tiger stripes
of cage bars / match / cut
from his eyelinered eyes
to the dark-rimmed gaze
of a tiger

There’s a lot of drama in the zoo world
/ a lot of strolling in slow motion
over a take-down testimony
[stick a shocking clip / BIG CAT BIG TEETH /
between ‘em for measure]
investigations are never easy
when timelines mulch into
alternate versions, worse
than what you can treat
an animal
and after all
an incriminating edit undoes
the innocence of smiles and silly hats
(we all know that people who sing
to each other, for love, are suspect)
that was a champagne
and brie evening
say the doers of certain evil
contemplating the justice system

But nothing says LOST IT like a federal bone dig
or three donkeys roaming a churned-up porch, or
pizza with a lemur in the driving seat, or
I’M DONE WITH THE ANIMAL WORLD!
declared from beneath a horseshoe moustache
(restless plus stagnant equals danger)

Still we won’t believe it until we’ve seen
the prison window lit up at night, the man
slurring in a bandana in the bath
while his interviewer asks the fee of murder
and everyone seems drunker than ethics

She pushes her sunglasses back
with five manicured fingers
and runs five more
through the fur
of a lion

See:
wealth is glowing skin and large enclosures
trimmed and orthodontic people
with the bronze-plated time to zoo-keep their standards

See:
not-wealth is a shot from below a dirty sock
– or gap teeth / uncut hair / corrugated ceiling /
no locks – or
RIGHT GUN RIGHT NOW
shouting down the long / flat / straight
highway with its dirt and herds

From mugshot to mullet
he worries the viewers will see a hick
but all I see is a wounded animal
thick scar turned to bold stare
abandonment turned to capture
you would all be fucked without me
he screams to those
he is terrified of losing

This is the man
in total control
(this is the place)

Where concern is unconserved
for other creatures’ comforts
(this is the part)

Where, entranced by the bulge
in the picture on the package of briefs
(with its bronze, bulbous thrust)
(enlarged by the loving touch)
(of digital brushwork)
the satisfied customer wraps
his junk in jaguar print

A self-made specimen
of dominant manhood, he stalks
from headboard to bedpost
imagining himself a wild thing
hungry for a cage of limbs to hold him
his pockets sticky with the promise
of the branded Sex Gel
sacred as a talisman, instilled
with hope alone
(like any libation)
with the elixir of big-cat virility
IN ALL THEIR POWER AND THEIR GLORY

But elsewhere, angry
she wears her commitment
loud in cheetah print
on leopard print
on zebra print
on tiger print
how could SHE
SHE WANTS TO BE
THE LAST MAN STANDING!

But everywhere, a right swipe is more likely
draped over the tame / dead
body of wild stripes

But EVERYTHING IS NEUTRAL
AND HAPPY AND GOING WELL
and seeing is believing
and buying is loving
and we’re like the military except
instead of grenades
we have tigers
(this is the reality)

When the primordial calligraphy
of heavy rings and thick stripes
is cooler, sexier, and more significant
than any creature would wish to be
to save their skin from the greedy
lexicography that links
predation with / sexual / prowess

When the pelts mounted on the walls
and the pelts manufactured on mass
sit side by side
with every impassioned inanimate icon
with the total lack of irony
in the face of the man in a leopard T-shirt
who locked his very own snow leopard
into a South Carolina summer
who looked into the staring eyes
of passers-by, stunned into asking
don’t they need to be refrigerated?
and felt congratulated.

Passion, proven
by a devotion of mugs and magnets
and a hand posed
below the belly of an infant tiger
to ensure that your wedding-day grin
shines with reflected evolutionary majesty!
that day / you are / significant enough
to hold your other
divorced from the world of its meaning wild

And THE ANIMALS SAY THANK YOU
for making them so saleable
eyes sealed shut:
mewling for mother:
glowing of cash –

But even if it’s a train crash
we can’t help but look
waiting with baited clicks
for a crime, true like loyalty

Until a mailbox explodes with snakes
and someone fire-bombs a gator house
and not a single animal benefitted
even if the reality
show says otherwise

But maybe it was your conviction
that proximity made you close
that the grip of fascination frees
that your rapture in their presence
gave them salvation
that if attention was empathy
more and more and more
and intensity was respect
anything and everything
and you were working hard
we want it all
to the industrious logic of
MAKE MORE ANIMALS, DUH!
then you could be forgiven
for believing you cared.

End