Have you ever been to the zoo as sun leaves the day?
You know how it’s suddenly all lit up, so magical, smelling
like caramel corn, peanuts and monkey poop? The cacophony of color
and noise. Even the trash from the day’s children glitters.

It’s alive.
So alive.

Falling in love with a zoo was a little like loving my big sister.
Painted brows, wearing pink bows in her hair
with a whole lot of hootin’ and hollerin’.
The frenzied clamor of cotton candy, pronto pups on a stick
leaving you wanting more. Elephants loop up their trunks,
tootin’ like a trumpeter. Gorillas swinging from the ropes before they pump
on their bellies roaring hilariously. Flamingos strut
in front of one another, showcasing their fiery plumage,

& while you couldn’t exactly say from day to day
if my sister would show up as flamingo or laughing hyena,
she was in their league. She amused everyone.
She played every part, the caged bird, the side show and ringleader of us all.
She loved the baby giraffes. How they poke their long necks out of the bars,
look up with those big eyes wanting to be touched,
to feel your fingers stroke them. Like my sister,
they long for you to choose them as your favorite.

In the heat of the summer when we were small,
and supposed to be asleep
we lay in our beds tickling one another
from each elbow down to the tips of our fingers.

Long after the sun went down at the zoo, we sisters
sat with Judy in her last hours. We sang the song she taught us
of the crocodile who got away. She waved her arms, always our conductor.
Until came the stillness, and her unbearable hush.