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Randall Jarrell - The Woman At The Washington Zoo

The saris go by me from the embassies.

Cloth from the moon.  Cloth from another planet.  
They look back at the leopard like the leopard.

And I. . . .
                this print of mine, that has kept its color
Alive through so many cleanings; this dull null
Navy I wear to work, and wear from work, and so
To my bed, so to my grave, with no
Complaints, no comment: neither from my chief,
The Deputy Chief Assistant, nor his chief--
Only I complain. . . . this serviceable
Body that no sunlight dyes, no hand suffuses
But, dome-shadowed, withering among columns,
Wavy beneath fountains--small, far-off, shining
In the eyes of animals, these beings trapped
As I am trapped but not, themselves, the trap,
Aging, but without knowledge of their age,
Kept safe here, knowing not of death, for death--
Oh, bars of my own body, open, open!

The world goes by my cage and never sees me.
And there come not to me, as come to these,
The wild beasts, sparrows pecking the llamas' grain,
Pigeons settling on the bears' bread, buzzards
Tearing the meat the flies have clouded. . . .
When you come for the white rat that the foxes left, 
Take off the red helmet of your head, the black
Wings that have shadowed me, and step to me as man:
The wild brother at whose feet the white wolves fawn,
To whose hand of power the great lioness
Stalks, purring. . . .
                                You know what I was,
You see what I am: change me, change me!

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Added: Feb 20 2003 | Viewed: 9913 times | Comments and analysis of The Woman At The Washington Zoo by Randall Jarrell Comments (2)

The Woman At The Washington Zoo - Comments and Information

Poet: Randall Jarrell
Poem: The Woman At The Washington Zoo

Comment 2 of 2, added on November 23rd, 2011 at 3:35 PM.

I told my gradnomther how you helped. She said, “bake them a cake!”

Latasha from Kuwait
Comment 1 of 2, added on May 25th, 2005 at 6:43 PM.

I like this poem. One reason is that it discusses an important aspect of the human condition, and I like the way it raises questions about whether we are free in living our lives or are bound by conditioning which enslaves us. I also like the way the author convincingly builds his case by giving an impression of years passing in the same conditioned way. Its rather visual like watching a caged animal and wishing it were free.

Marianne Hamilton from Australia

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