Zookeeper By Jill Mceldowney


I am going to drive myself insane to see if it can be done

to see if it’s true
to see if I’m still pretty when I’m dead.

Today, you and I take the train to the Zoo in Lincoln Park.
My jittery, haunted insomnia is back
worse than ever.

I mean I’m depressed
again or something though I don’t look it—
no one would believe me if I told them.
You tell me:

“Every morning when they feed the leopards,
the zookeepers spike their water with antidepressants—“

Two inches of glass between me and the leopards—
I would take their bite down hard, their bury,
their dead staring West at the stars if it meant changing,
if it meant sleeping in the frost, letting my teeth go.

—see how they pace like they are right now?
Anxiety is anxiety’s side effect.”

I need to know what that feels like
again to descend—it calls and even if
the drugs were working—

in thirty days, when they release the leopards back
into the jungle, they won’t sleep for weeks.
Their bodies will tick for Prozac
and there is no Prozac

in the wild it’s survive or don’t.

Some trail camera will catch them on the green fog
of night vision—muzzles slick with oil, blood.
They’ve been eating at something or they’ve hurt themselves.

I need to know how that would look on me—

was asked again if I am really sick and I do not know
how to answer that.

By Jill Mceldowney


Jill Mceldowney is the author of the chapbook Airs Above Ground (Finishing Line Press) as well as Kisses Over Babylon (dancing girl press). She is an editor and cofounder of Madhouse Press. She is also a recent National Poetry Series Finalist. Her previously published work can be found in journals such as Muzzle, Fugue, Vinyl, the Sonora Review, Prairie Schooner, and other notable publications.


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