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American Life in Poetry: Rain at the zoo

Rain at the Zoo

A giraffe presented its head to me, tilting it

sideways, reaching out its long gray tongue.

I gave it my wheat cracker while small drops

of rain pounded us both. Lightning cracked open

the sky. Zebras zipped across the field.

It was springtime in Michigan. I watched

the giraffe shuffle itself backwards, toward

the herd, its bone- and rust-colored fur beading

with water. The entire mix of animals stood

away from the trees. A lone emu shook

its round body hard and squawked. It ran

along the fence line, jerking open its wings.

Perhaps it was trying to shake away the burden

of water or indulging an urge to fly. I can't know.

I have no idea what about their lives these animals

love or abhor. They are captured or born here for us,

and we come. It's true. This is my favorite field.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation,, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright Kristen Tracy. Poem reprinted by permission. Introduction copyright 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.