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J A N U A R Y   1 9 6 7

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THE MUSEUM OF COMPARATIVE ZOOLOGY

by L. E. Sissman



audioear picture Hear Peter Davison read this poem (in RealAudio).

(For help, see a note about the audio.)

Also by L. E. Sissman:
Tras Os Montes (1978)
Love-Making; April; Middle Age (1968)
The Tree Warden (1965)


In Atlantic Unbound:

Attending to the Night, by Peter Davison (March 17, 1999)
A new selection of poems by the late L. E. Sissman revives the sound of a distinctive postwar American voice. Sissman's friend and longtime editor looks back at the poet's career.


Go to:
An Audible Anthology
Poetry Pages



Struck dumb by love among the walruses
And whales, the off-white polar bear with stuffing
Missing, the mastodons like muddy buses,
I sniff the mothproof air and lack for nothing.

A general grant enabled the erection,
Brick upon brick, of this amazing building.
Today, in spite of natural selection,
It still survives an orphan age of gilding.

Unvarnished floors tickle the nose with dust
Sweeter than any girls' gymnasium's;
Stove polish dulls the cast-iron catwalk's rust;
The soot outside would make rival museums

Blanch to the lintels. So would the collection.
A taxidermist has gone ape. The cases
Bulging with birds whose differences defy detection
Under the dirt are legion. Master races

Of beetles lie extinguished in glass tables:
Stag, deathwatch, ox, dung, diving, darkling, May.
Over the Kelmscott lettering of their labels,
Skeleton crews of sharks mark time all day.

Mark time: these groaning boards that staged a feast
Of love for art and science, since divorced,
Still scantily support the perishing least
Bittern and all his kin. Days, do your worst:

No more of you can come between me and
This place from which I issue and which I
Grow old along with, an unpromised land
Of all unpromising things that live and die.

This brick ark packed with variant animals --
All dead -- by some progressive-party member
Steams on to nowhere, all the manuals
Of its calliope untouched, toward December.

Struck dumb by love among the walruses
And whales, the off-white polar bear with stuffing
Missing, the mastodons like muddy buses,
I sniff the mothproof air and lack for nothing.





Copyright © 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. From Night Music: Poems, by L. E. Sissman, edited by Peter Davison. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Co.

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