This poem appears in the Fall 2022 / Winter 2023 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe to the journal, click here.

The denizens of zoos, here and abroad,
Have suffered from withdrawal, in a dearth
Of company, all visitors outlawed.
Like us, they look to others for self-worth,

A ratifying mirror. Thus in Cologne,
A pianist, with keyboard, went to call
Upon the animals. He played his own
Sonata, “by appointment to them all.”

Wise elephants, adjusting a great ear,
Approached; goats frolicked in delight; giraffes
Attended closely; penguins waddled near;
In the aquarium, as if for laughs,

The dolphins leapt and dived. All listened, rapt,
Or bounded, climbed, turned circles, swayed—the least,
The great—for happiness; sea lions clapped.
These modern notes and their devoted priest,

An Orpheus, can soothe the savage breast,
Their melody, their rhythm like his Lyre,
Which made the rocks arise, the rivers rest,
Waves fall—enduring still, a starry choir.

Thelonius, he’s called, a storied name.
His harmonies ring smoothly to our ears
And ripple out, to animals’ acclaim.
It’s nature, primed, the music of the spheres.