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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 21, 2016.
About this Poem 

“This poem came after watching the video of the tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo involving a 450-pound gorilla and a three-year-old black boy who had fallen into the moat. The terror and tender recognition between them; the deep ironies and shady ethics caught in those fraught minutes, and what the public outrage expressed indicates about the paradoxical nature of humanity, long legacies of brutality that continue.”
—Kamilah Aisha Moon

Shared Plight

Bound to whims,
bred solely for
circuses of desire.
To hell with savannahs,
towns like Rosewood.

Domestics or domesticated,
one name or surnamed, creatures
the dominant ones can’t live without
would truly flourish
without such devious love,
golden corrals.

Harnessed. Muzzled.
Stocks and bonds. Chains
and whips held by hand. 
Ota Benga in a Bronx cage,
Saartjie Baartman on display—
funds sent to her village
didn’t make it okay. Harambe,
Tamir, Cecil, Freddie—names
of the hunted, captives
bleed together. The captors
beasts to all but themselves
and their own.

Two endangered beings in a moat
stare into each other's eyes.

Slower than light, mercy
must not survive entry
into our atmosphere, never
reaching those who lose
unbridled lives
long before they die
in this world of zoos
and conquerors who treat
earthlings like aliens.

Copyright © 2016 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Kamilah Aisha Moon

Kamilah Aisha Moon

Kamilah Aisha Moon is the author of Starshine & Clay (Four Way Books, 2017). She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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I.
Huge dashes in the sand, two or three
times a year they swim like words
in a sentence toward the period
of the beach, lured into sunning
themselves like humans do—
forgetting gravity,
smothered in the absence
of waves and high tides.

II.
[Pilot whales beach

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North Charleston, South Carolina, April 4, 2015

Walter Scott must have been a track athlete
before serving his country, having children:

his knees were high, elbows bent
at 90 degrees as his arms pumped
close to his sides, back straight and head up
as each foot landed in

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            after the news of the dead 
            whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you 
			—W.S. Merwin


A blanket of fresh snow
makes any neighborhood idyllic.
Dearborn Heights indistinguishable from Baldwin Hills,
South Central even—
until a thawing happens and residents emerge
into