‘I think you will like the pictures from Dublin Zoo… did you know they raised lions there?’
—Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore, August 1937
These places are reminders, exposing how, after such acts,
we share the scent of animals—eating, sex and death.
Our language tells us we are similar—brave as, mean as—
how we are lions, weasels, or we have our heads in the sand.
Like forced comparisons, emotions pace in cages, for display.
Here, in this one room, it is different; there are creatures here
whose scent we’ll never smell, the colour of whose eyes
we’ll never see, never hear their whimper or their roar.
I think nothing could be better than to be a skull
in a glass case, picked and pickled clean; all that gleaming whiteness,
the clear edges of things, emerging from the mess that was before,
the open eye sockets, polished nasal bones, the silent yawn of jaw
all appearing as plain and unreadable as words on a page;
skulls may keep their secrets, even in glass graves.