Kelly Terwilliger

Elegy
by Kelly Terwilliger

note: On October 18, 2011, Terry Thompson released 56 exotic animals from his Muskingum County Animal Farm before shooting himself in the head. In an effort to protect the public, the police killed 49 of the animals as they roamed Zanesville, OH.

A man who gives up might think
he is leaving the world simpler
but he sets his beasts among us.
They wander out at twilight
a scattering
of ordinary leaves
rustling with the same dry sounds
they have always made this time of year.

And the wind moves through the trees,
a grandfather
ruffling the heads of children bent over books
in which tigers and lions and bears
step out of dreams and walk the streets

and the wind strokes their fur
which is soft, like the fur of rabbits, and full
of a secret light that stays on your hands
long after you have touched it.

In the story the animals are never hungry
for more than a little cake. They climb
into the zookeeper’s bed
wanting only to be closer to human. We feel them
nestled around us, breathing as we breathe.

But now: it is run, and dive, and lunge, alarm
as real as gravel and tires driving into the hard wet night.
The highway roars, the rain refracts each beam of light
into passing chrysanthemums, dying red
and white, and red and white. A long dark cat
skims shadows. A monkey climbs higher in the trees.
They must be shot before they go too far.

Before they escape
what we imagine them to be.
 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 4.

Kelly TerwilligerKelly Terwilliger’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Hunger Mountain, Poet Lore, The Comstock Review and other journals. Her chapbook, A Glimpse of Oranges, was published by Finishing Line Press. She is a storyteller and writer-in-residence in public schools in Oregon.

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