TCR Holiday Special 1998

R.T. Smith


R.T. Smith
R.T. Smith R.T. Smith is the editor of Shenandoah.  He greets us with a poem he wrote after a Yuletide experience at a petting zoo located inside a mall near his home in Virginia.


Yule, Mall, Petting Zoo    Click to hear RealAudio

The sad animals crouch in straw the mall
crew changes daily, while muzak carols
suggest: this is the holy crèche.  Leashed
lamb and hobbled Shetland suffer the touch
of toddlers, as slackers from the arcade pause
to copy the camel's sneer.  Threadbare
bighorns tell me I'm no better, watching
from middle distance while shoppers
with compact cameras snap the hookbill
squawking, "Hawk, the harrowed angels."
Nearby, Santa poses with a muzzled deer.
Fat black piglets from Viet Nam squeal
at sloth, python, luna moth and Soay.
                        Where are we headed?
Bland food pellets in a dish, the tepid
water and tethers—are these our mercy?
My prayer is this:  May some local
prophet feel the godfire inside him stir
when the peacock's host of eyes compel
his gaze.  When the llama, ailing cockatiel
and spayed greyhound summon his soul
with their patient, intelligent cells,
may he gather the hostage animals
and herd them to a meadow where bright
angels might suddenly appear
and a blessed shepherd volunteer
to tend this docile flock by silent night.


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