Alternate Featurette, Zoo

Keith Montesano

Two blue lights headed for our eyes on the highway, gauzy parabolas

      inch by inch toward

the end of our lives… but it’s the opposite, camera tracking

      through a coal mine,

fluorescent helmet lights aglow forever through the darkness:

      how we’re trapped

and writhing in our imminent collapse. Why am I this way?

      There has to be

a purpose? A horse glares from a trailer, sun opening on a field

      for grazing, dying wheat

and corn near the last day of fall in Enumclaw. It’s just like loving

      your wife, or your kids—

it’s the same thing. Fathers, Aerospace engineers, truck drivers—

      even soldiers from Iraq,

amidst suicide bombers and endless dust, yearning

      for those parties

like blurred orgies you can find in hidden pictures: cheese trays,

      soda and whiskey

and ten-plus bodies nude and waiting, captured by the one

      with the camera. But here

for something beyond, as if the trips to the barn were as common

      as the friendships:

all the NASA footage, political quibbling, margaritas and innocence.

      We were friends

for all those years and suddenly I’m no good, just because I love the horses?

      One shirt on a clothesline

waving towns away from the snowcaps, China Firs looming in the foreground

      miles from Mount Rainier,

still like the seconds before bliss, before the body ruptures inside

      for good. A lot of times

they just wanted to come out and see if it’s possible. I did summertime barbeques,

      Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner…

The notorious Mr. Hands: implying reach and touch, the endless strands

      of nerves through

the fingers. There were things in him he didn’t want people to know. Always

      driving toward

the ranch, everyone who came to visit, through backtracked

      dirt roads, Pin Oaks

rimming each ditch, stretching leafless limbs like premonitions.

      Then the blind horse,

Chance, and the close-ups in the blackberry patch: always

      poking his eyes, feeling

his way toward the threshold between ripeness and blood. It has

      no idea what Tolstoy is

or Keats. You can’t discuss the difference between Monet and Picasso. They don’t

      exist for their world.

To a Steadicam: group after a gathering, walking the streets for breakfast

      to the few restaurants

in town, no one sensing what occurred in the barn, after

      the booze, the camaraderie

miles from anyone knowing. There’s no pain, no drugs, no coercion or bondage—

      because these are your friends.

Then the cop interviewed, an actor, sitting in whiteness: I could see right down

      in his mouth, a child’s, and it

was ghostly white, and at that moment—when I was staring into those empty eyes

      and the depths of death—

all I saw was my own reflection. And what to do as the man dies, Mr. Hands,

      skin shrouding blood

roiling his body, pupils deeper and blacker than night’s secrets, those

      we all have, never

revealing to the world. We knew it was going to happen, but we didn’t know when.

      A helicopter over the ranch,

dirt clouds billowing, yearning for footage of accidental death—buckets

      full of tapes and CDs—

all they thought was hidden. Before Happy Horseman on the beach, staring

      at the ocean, an expatriate

in his own country (you can find real names if you’re so inclined). And at last

      the score mimicking a train whistle,

bus under a bridge on its way toward freedom, ending up somewhere

      without a camera, the secrets

filed away before everyone knows, suddenly, and without warning:

      No one finds out… if you live.

Keith Montesano is the author of the poetry collection Ghost Lights (Dream Horse Press, 2010). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, American Literary Review, Third Coast, River Styx, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. He currently lives with his wife in New York, where he is a PhD Candidate in English and Creative Writing at Binghamton University.