This is the final of three days of animal-themed poetry by Renee Carter Hall. Renee is curating the 2016 [adjective][species] Poetry Collection, which is open for submissions until 22 April.
The Unicorn at the Zoo
They put it among trees and rose bushes,
ringed a dry moat with an iron fence.
They’re still not sure if it’s
male or female; the ultrasound
goes to static and freezes every time.
They tried to test its blood,
but the silver serum in the tube
swirled and shimmered into nothing.
They held a contest to name it anyway,
and a third-grader won with Moonflower.
Tourists gather at its enclosure with
strollers and cameras,
whinny at it like a horse,
hold their children up to see.
In their snapshots, it is only
a vague white blur, a bit
of pearly horn here, a hint
of cloven hoof there.
The gift shop has no postcards of it,
but the plush horned ponies sell out every week.
The keepers aren’t sure what it eats.
Some say the flowers, but they’re untouched.
Some say water, some say air.
Some say love, but they’re laughed at
by people who feel guilty for it afterward.
The keepers hold somber meetings
with scholars and art historians.
Every day they worry it seems a bit thinner,
its coat a touch paler, more translucent.
The words on the sign at its enclosure
are starting to fade.
Sometimes the zoo director stands
before it in his three-piece suit,
slow tears tracing the lines of his face.
Some say he’s only thinking about
the money he might lose.
Others aren’t so sure.
in the deep dreaming,
the warm dark
of fur and tooth.
by the slow rush
of blood and breath.
Outside, the cold
inside, her heartbeat
(Readers can find more of my poetry, on various subjects, at http://www.reneecarterhall.com/poetry.html)