160.1: Molly Bendall:: hutch…trophy…hide & branches…tawny…dread…disappear & heavy…mark…sorry
11 November 2013
In these three poems, Molly Bendall takes us on a walk through a zoo. What becomes immediately apparent is that we don't know what we are looking at—the animals are not named. This seems counter to the zoo experience itself, where animals are grouped into animal families mapped out in vibrant colors on the fold-out map, where at each cage the common name and Latin name are displayed prominently, sometimes with a pronunciation guide. By not specifying what animals are being viewed, the observer, the animal, and the reader all come to exist in the shared space of the poem, the barriers of the cage crossed by the various lines of observation and consideration. The gaps between the poems' fragments become the intersection of these lines, and what one thinks entangles with the observer and the observed: ". . . by the minute . . . I shouldn’t . . . my eyelids heavy . . . I whisper close . . . / to yours . . . trophy to what is hidden . . . ." What is hidden, what is seen, what is revealed, and what is made (or becomes) invisible occurs and re-occurs through these poems. What remains visible are the lines of intersection, the bars of the cage, and ultimately the space of the zoo itself as a place of observation: ". . . knew what’s better for them . . . I was . . . they’re absent now . . . / I plumb the grottoes and heavy walls . . . the sorry show of moonlight . . ." Neither romanticizing the animals' experience of the zoo nor damning the existence of cages, Bendall's poems state: this is what it is. Now, look!