visiting day

all the display cases in the museum of natural history
are full of dead things: fruit bats, gophers,
tremendous landsnails with the guts vacuum'd out,
crucified butterflies and birds of paradise
in every exotic colour, from every exotic place,

the manmade cave and snakes on display
giant owls perched in the crevices with mice in their talons,
salamanders, flying squirrels, and crayfish
so lifelike in shimmering pools;
katlynn clinging to my hand shrieks,
dont let them eat me daddy!

in the gift shoppe she races from display
to display
utterly enthralled by the bins
full of polished stones and geodes,
baffled by the canned alligator
and mood stones melting in her tiny palms,
my old heart lodged in my throat.

c. earl nelson

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