THE ILLUSIONIST - ken poyner

Now that there are more zoos than animals, I am much in demand.  I can play a marvelous monkey.  I can swell in contained water to any size of hippopotamus you want.  I’ve even done birds.  The key is that not only will you believe I am that one animal you were wishing to see, but I will believe it, too.  I will believe it like the taste of salt on sugar.  I can be almost anything.  For a short time, I can even be a box turtle. When my shift is done I merge quickly into the crowd and shuffle along as though I had been embedded in the populace all along: moving from empty cage to empty cage, peering in all the corners and hiding places just in case this is the cage that today has the animal, just in case I have found the one prize that today has been put out, sunning in the shadows.  When I find it, I look at the animal face on, eye to eye, hackle to hackle: and I say this is not me, how dare they hire an imposter.  This crowd deserves the best and there is no one better than me.  I demand only the best for my crowd.  And I have to be stopped from breaching the safety fence.

Ken Poyner
Complete Poems
Randall Jarrell