Walking along the lush pathways near the Snow Leopard’s lair in the Central Park Zoo in New York City, I looked down to see two bricks nestled into the dirt. I brushed some leaves away to see that they were inscribed with a poem, a fragment of Sanctuary by Alison Hawthorne Deming.
In the heat of the afternoon
monarchs come down from their sleep
to huddle on the edges of streams and
meadow pools, trembling to stay warm,
and they sip, then sit, they fly off
until the air is a blizzard of orange.
The pilgrims watch quietly, lines of
schoolchildren from Mexico City,
scientists from Texas and California,
old women in rebozos leaning on the arms
of adult sons, tourists lugging
cameras and binoculars. And together
the visitors drink in the spectacle
with the great thirst they have brought
from their cities and towns, and it is
a kind of prayer, this meeting of our kind,
so uncertain about how to be
the creature we are, and theirs,
so clear in their direction.
This lovely, understated poetry installation was part of The Language of Conservation (Poetry in the Zoos), a program created by Poets House to deepen public awareness of environmental issues through poetry.
How wonderful to place poetry in unexpected places in nature! I searched “engraved paving stones and bricks” and discovered that it is easy to have a poem or quote inscribed on an enduring brick to leave for others to discover.
(Now THAT is a great house gift for friends with a plot of land or a garden…)
Read all of Sanctuary here.