The Caribou


December 4, 2023

The Caribou

Chessy Normile

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Originally, the zoo was built to remind us

of our separation from nature.

There was no animal in the cage, just earth.

This reminds me

of Tony’s mom’s suburban lawn

in Madison, Wisconsin

overflowing with
native prairie grass
and signs from the city that read

“I am not insane.”

I keep the table in my closet

quiet and empty so it’s like

a cage of grass.

That’s where I write this poem now.

It’s Labor Day. Last night, The Caribou

was rammed with laughing people

none among us aware

of what a caribou really is—

how it lives, eats, feels, sleeps, talks, or dies.

I drank rainbow cans of beer

called Montucky Cold Snacks

with the astronomer

I share a blue house with.

He uses a radio

to map the Milky Way.

That’s the kind

of speechless life

a person craves—

where there is no cage

just ink and distance,

spots of light I won’t

ever understand and

beyond them the soft hair

around a black hole

remembering what it ate for lunch

20,000 years ago—sometimes,

me, too—my soft hair catches

the smell of what I cook or burn

and I walk around a record

for a while. But I’m on a leash –

presided over even when alone

by a voice in presidential moon boots

or the silk pants of a ringleader, controlled

by the fragrant ticket taker

who sleeps in the booth

in a chamber of my heart…

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Chessy Normile

Chessy Normile is a writer from New York currently living in Madison, Wisconsin as the 2022-23 Ronald Wallace Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing.