by Kathy Nilsson

I’m having trouble looking animals in the eye.

Their empty suits in outer space!

Monkeys injected with a virus to show off

Our eminent domain, the nervous system.

Teacup pigs we breed and obsessive mice

Worrying themselves bald in a miniature opera.

For pleasures of the tongue we are

Winking cattle out of meadows

Slashing their throats and swiftly quartering them.

In riding habits with gold flame pins we ride horses

To hounds, chase a fennec fox until his red

Coat flares up against the extinction

Of light. Once in a circus we made

An elephant disappear and he did not mind.

SOURCE: Poetry (April 2012)

PHOTO: Chimpanzee named Ham is fitted into the biopack couch of the Mercury-Redstone 2 capsule #5 prior to its test flight on January 31, 1961 (NASA). For more on simians in space, visit


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathy Nilsson earned a BA in English Literature from Mount Holyoke College and an MFA in poetry from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and The New York State Writer’s Institute. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Boston Review, Poetry Daily, Columbia, Volt, and other literary journals. Her chapbook, The Abattoir, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008. Her manuscript, Black Lemons, was a finalist in the Tupelo First Book Award, and the manuscript The Infant Scholar was selected for Honorable Mention in the Steven’s Poetry Manuscript Competition sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. A recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Award, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son.