Wednesday, March 21, 2018

For Your Enjoyment: The Baghdad Zoo by Brian Turner

The Bagdad Zoo
     Is the world Safer? No. It's not safer in Iraq.
                                       -Hans Blix

An Iraqi northern brown bear mauled a man
on a street corner, dragging him down an alley
as shocked onlookers shouted and threw stones.

Tanks rolled their heavy tracks
past the museum and up to the Ministy of Oil.
A gunner watched a lion chase down a horse.

Eaten down to their skeletons, the giraffes
looked prehistoric, unreal, their necks
too fragile, too graceful for the 21st century.

Dalmation pelicans and marbled teals
flew over, frightened by the rotorwash
of Blackhawk helicopters touching down.

One baboon escaped the city limits.
It was found wandering in the desert, confused
by the wind, the blowing sands of the barchan dunes.

                       by Brian Turner


This tremendous poem is in Brian Turner's wonderful first collection Here, Bullet, at the moment there are a good number used for under $6 with shipping and I highly recommend it, as well as his second collection Phantom Noise. Before being collected this poem appeared in the journal Natural Bridge which is produced by the University of Missouri in St. Louis, Missouri.

Bonus writing exercise: The surreal scenario of a zoo, or more specifically, zoo animals in wartime is a great place to start from. Imagine your own scenario where something that seems normal in the everyday could become very different. Perhaps flooding fills a subway, a fairground is struck by a tornado, the aquarium is abandoned... Once you have your scenario brainstorm a number of aspects of the scenario, at least 6. Then put each of those six aspects up against at least three different situations (the brown bear could have attacked a car, plundered a street vendor etc). Pick your favorites and you have the scaffolding for the poem, the raw bricks just waiting for the mortar.