A Variation Upon Randall Jarrell’s “The Woman at the Washington Zoo”

They walk—no, more likely, they saunter,
Embassy functionaries, associate profs at G-Dub,
A smorgasbord of polka dots and vitae,
Of leopard-print and Linkedin pages,
Sufficient and necessary in their presents and futures.
I occupy a bench in my own shambling manner,
Denim-clad most days, perhaps affecting
A less humble khaki if I am feeling particularly grandiloquent,
Redeployed here from the rough-and-tumble of more commercial avenues,
Among the bar-and-concrete hosteled llamas and coyotes
(Probably closer kin, if one is being honest)
Simply an ornamental thing, overgrown garden gnome
Or bowdlerized lawn jockey, unobtrusive and unnoticed
By those who would coo at the macaos and mandarin ducks
Or shudder at the offal left uneaten by black bears and maned wolves.
And so such days proceed, from my convenience-store coffee arrival
To such time that something approximating dinner
Must be conjured or cadged from somewhere,
My thoughts tend to stray not to the lionesses
Or sleek Catwoman-esque jaguars,
But to the unpretentious turkey vultures of the fields of my youth,
Circling warily, inexorably in threes and fours above
And I know that there is no ennobling nor annihilation to be found here,
No outcome but to simply await.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: The original may be found here. Fortunately, Jarrell is long since dead (and I have an alibi) so I should be spared the withering criticism which he was noted for showering upon unworthy work.)


10 thoughts on “A Variation Upon Randall Jarrell’s “The Woman at the Washington Zoo”

  1. I for one, am a great fan of nihilism in poetry. The human race is so darn passionate about every little thing, and sometimes I wonder what the fuss is all about.

    1. I am thinking about our mutual friend Mr. Crane, how the necessary of narrative in his fiction seems to blunt and diffuse his passion in his fiction, and how sometimes his poetry could have used some diffusion.

  2. This poem reminds me of the copies of art works of the Great Masters–a clever variation on a theme.

    However ( it must be my intellect), I am never exactly sure who or what you are referencing. It’s me, really.

    I used to have my students attempt to copy, say, a la Hemingway style (and then Faulkner’s) about something going on their lives. They relished these types of assignments and I roared laughing.

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