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The Petting Zoo and other poems

The Petting Zoo and other poems

Three poems by Subhash Kak under Parnassus: Poetry, curated by Siddhartha Gigoo


The Petting Zoo


Ages ago 
five animals formed the
circle of ritual slaughter.
Young boys watched 
the snuffing out of life 
as the priest intoned

Later, on the frigid highlands of Ladakh
the herders bled the animal to death
before it was dressed
and the lamas played
their long trumpets

Rituals and games are different now
meat comes wrapped 
in plastic foil
animals graze far from habitation
and house pets 
have taken the place of children.

Yet we need animals 
at the college campus
to help anxious students 
find calm before the big test.

An enclosure is erected:
Five animals rest there. 
Goat, sheep, cow, miniature donkeys, 
and a pair of proud lamas
are the petting zoo

They are chewing on hay
absorbed in the moment
as students stroke them
and take pictures

Their quiet eyes
make no contact.
They seem contented
in their being
and as I walk away 
I think I hear
the cow’s laughter


Loss and Love


The sparrow that built its nest
feeds the chicks without rest.
Why does the sparrow toil?
The chicks will fly away
one day.

An eagle swooped down 
and stole the chicks.
The sparrow darts here and there,
searching in corners
picking twigs
letting out shrill screams.

What is love?
A mirror to an expansion,
it is like rain
on a mountain path
on a steamy afternoon
on a track that goes 
round a bend.

Some tracks
fall off the mountain.


A Prayer



It was from prayer books
that I learned to adore you with names.

Words are like bamboos
lashed together
across a mountain chasm.

When I lost my path
I needed more than words
to join my journey.

I have seen your image now.
The music of your creations
has become one with me
and I know that worship
is the happiness of walking
to the wilderness.

Words bind —
the smile on your face
has liberated me.

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