American Life in Poetry: Column 177


Kristen Tracy is a poet from San Francisco who here
captures a moment at a zoo. It's the falling rain, don't
you think, that makes the experience of observing the
animals seem so perfectly truthful and vivid?

Rain at the Zoo

A giraffe presented its head to me, tilting it
sideways, reaching out its long gray tongue.
I gave it my wheat cracker while small drops
of rain pounded us both. Lightning cracked open
the sky. Zebras zipped across the field.
It was springtime in Michigan. I watched
the giraffe shuffle itself backwards, toward
the herd, its bone- and rust-colored fur beading
with water. The entire mix of animals stood
away from the trees. A lone emu shook
its round body hard and squawked. It ran
along the fence line, jerking open its wings.
Perhaps it was trying to shake away the burden
of water or indulging an urge to fly. I can't know.
I have no idea what about their lives these animals
love or abhor. They are captured or born here for us,
and we come. It's true. This is my favorite field.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry
Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of
Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department
of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Poem copyright (c) Kristen Tracy, whose most recent
teen novel is "Crimes of the Sarahs," Simon & Schuster,
2008. Poem reprinted from AGNI online, 9/2007, by permission
of Kristen Tracy. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by
The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted
Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant
in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
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