Charlotte Simmonds: Here at the Miniature Zoo

One night my friend holds a dinner party.
It is a Viking dinner party. Feasting for feisty Vikings.
But not just any feisty Vikings. It is a dinner party for
Feisty vegan Vikings. Strictly feisty vegan Vikings.
Vegan Vikings who quaff ale and mead,
Sop slabs of bread into hearty broths
With which they swill down the gristly greasy
Chunks of soy bean curd they greedily
Shred from off of the wooden stakes,
Thumping their tankards soundly against the
Trestles whilst waxing nostalgic about the
Villages they’ve sacked, the wenches they’ve
Ravished, the raids they’ve returned from.

We didn’t really do a lot of research.
Maybe we mixed the Vikings up a bit with Goths
Or Visigoths or Teutons or some other
Century. But we sit there swilling
And quaffing and scoffing about quilling
And quipping about squalling which is the
General state of the weather hereabouts.

We had listened to the soundtrack of Conan,
Discussed who had seen it or not seen it
Seen the Governor or not seen the Governor
Seen something else from our childhoods
Recently or not really seen much of any childhood
At all, or recently, or seen anything from the 80s
Either in the 80s, or recently. Of course if you
Were a Viking, you would listen to Conan,
The soundtrack, if you had had Conan,
The soundtrack, when you had been a Viking.
You would like this kind of music, if you
Really had been a Viking. A real Viking. At least,
If you were a real vegan fighting Viking.

Soy bean curd is as hard to digest as meat,
So the digestive process was probably
Accurate and half of the stuff so convincing,
When we tell them we’ve hidden some real
Meat in there and they have to guess which one
Is The One, they all believe us. Every one
Believes there is One. Or that all of it is meat.
Actually, it was none. In the middle of the party,
My friend stands up and makes a long toasty
Speech. It’s pretty warm. There is a fake log
Fire burning there. Is anything in this place real?

He says it is his birthday as some of us may have
Known. Not me. I didn’t know. He is thirty. Or he is
Thirty-two. Or thirty-one. Happy birthday. The toasting
Reappears intermittently throughout the night.
I suppose he is somewhat of a confabulator,
Is perhaps something of an orator, not in those
Words, would he like to be? Would he like to be
In those words or out of them, whose words
Would he like to be in if not those ones, he is
Quite the toast-master at any rate, he is the only
One who toasts, urging others to toast, they only
Toast less, although Fraser claims to be the Speaker
of the House unless that is a joke, he is not really
A parliamentarian, it must be a joke, people
Are talking about organ thieves in Brisbane
Or did they say Darwin, or did they say Canberra,
It was up north somewhere, Darwin, I’m sure, is
Where all the Chinese organ gangs operate lately,
Have you seen your organs recently? I don’t usually
See my organs ever, except for my skin and that’s still
There, luckily, teeth tearing into this soy bean flesh.

There is a joke about organized crime. Oh very
Good, very good. The lesbian couple are having a
Baby. Very good, very good. All this food is also
Very good, very good. Somehow we all make ourselves
Feel good about everything we’ve ever been
Or done or seen recently or not seen, there is
Pride in what we have not seen too – I have not
Seen half the television other people see – so we
Talk about the books that we like to read and the
Books we don’t like to read at all, but which
Other people like to read, and which we like to
Talk about, like paranormal romances, I’ve never
Written one or read one, you have to like them to
Really write them, it’s not a hack genre anyone
Can do, you have to actually care, right, about
Your audience, your characters and how could
I care but Prokofiev’s famous bit from Romeo & Juliet
Is thundering in the background, so how could I care
With that taking place behind me. How can you care.

The cake is astonishing. People who don’t like cake
Like this one. Our friend is thirty-two or thirty-one,
Well done. The Speaker of the House leaves early,
Because he wants to screw the girlfriend he brought
Early, before work in the morning, or because he
Had to have a cigarette and there are so few smokers
Left anymore. Last time I saw that girlfriend it was
Someone else’s dinner party and she was someone
Else’s girlfriend and they left early to screw too.
Probably. I don’t remember. She is very cute,
Animated. I would leave early too if she was my gif.
Maybe I saw her last at a barbecue, not a dinner party,
A summer party. Maybe she was only a grill-friend.

I’m just getting my record together. I’m working on
A book. I’m rendering a few films. I’m still finalizing
My portfolio. I’m still the Speaker of the House.

Meanwhile, back home at the miniature ranch,
A man is writing me thousands of emotional
Checks, all for the ridiculous sums of things
Like One Trillion Dollars, Five Gazillon Euros,
Eight Gigajillon Sheqelim Hadashim. Coming
Home, I hold these checks up to the light –
They all check out to me, but when I take them to
My Emotional Bank Teller, the little man behind
The grill says to me fiercely, a bone in his teeth,
You can’t cash this! What is this! What the hell
Is this! This isn’t real money! That’s not even
A number. Surprised I ask, Are you sure? I
Realize he is telling the truth. I feel embarrassed.
I am ashamed that I even thought it was a real
Number, a word like gigajillon. What was I thinking
About.

So meanwhile, on the miniature farm, during
The time I was selling off all my best produce,
Really giving out the good goods, taking cold
Hard cash money, I thought, for these love
Transactions of fancy when I should have been
Taking flight instead, as I was being robbed by
Nothing more than a common thief, (or is that
Called embezzling funds, is that what that is,
I’ve never really known all these financial terms,
Is that a white collar crime, when it comes to
Relationships, are you a white collar or a blue
Collar criminal and do you ever get collared,
Does anyone ever put you behind bars? These
Are questions you need to ask yourself from
Time to time. You need to say, Am I a thief?)
I was asking but never getting an answer.

Meanwhile, no one has ceased to measure
Change. We continue to measure everything
In units of time and no one ever wonders if
We shouldn’t. If we should stop measuring
Change for a change.

Hence, I am turning thirty soon, like everyone else
My age and the changes I’ve made are good ones.
I know there have been changes, because I’ve measured
Them. I’m turning thirty soon. Now that I’ve stopped
Giving out the goods, I’d like to hope that things
Are becoming good. Very good. Much has been
Stolen but I still have all of this loose change.

Meanwhile, down here at the miniature zoo,
Did I ever tell you about my idea for a miniature
Zoo? It was a very good one. It would only contain
Miniature animals like bumblebee bats, pygmy
Marmosets, that chameleon that turned up in National
Geographic one day walking along a matchstick,
Pygmy shrews, all those tiny animals. They’re my
Favorites. I always worried that I’d accidentally put
Down my mug of coffee on one if I had one as a
Pet. My best two hundred thousand dollars would be
Gone, in one squish. Or I’d lose my chameleon one day
In my own house and never see him again. He could
Be anywhere. So anyhow, that’s my idea for a miniature
Zoo. Makes a change from the regular zoo.
I’m telling you, people would flock to it. I could
Charge them five dollars to look in a box. That’s the
Kind of small change I’m talking about.



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