This was written in the early 90’s about a year after I read a news article about how snipers were stopping the zookeepers from feeding the animals in Sarajevo Zoo. The last animal had just died of starvation. The poem has been published in Beloit Poetry Review.

Waiting for the Archduke

There are no leaves at Sarajevo Zoo; the last
bear died a year ago, hunched hungry
over the bones of its brother.

Buck Rogers walks the pathways in late-autumn
haze, sidestepping peacocks grown adept
at dodging bullets; he's invulnerable himself

as heroes usually are one way or another.
Buck's waiting for a dapper fellow
decked in braid and bristling

with mustachios, who (he's heard) still haunts
this ground, awaiting history's call to spark
again that glorious clash

of sabres
for the justice of some cause,
Buck can't remember which. The chap
is avatar of futures; his story makes alive

what neither Buck nor his keepers can bear to know
in other ways. Buck's task: to slay this ghost,
this spectre who incarnates all

we must deny is human, who stalks the zoo
against the day he'll prove us wrong again. Buck
wanders past the primate house, and there, in parallel

gait, grimacing back from plate glass sheen
that separates stray peacocks from rotting
monkey fur, he finds his man.

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