2010 – Jodi L. Hottel – The Cage

Poetry selection from the 2010 issue

The Cage
Jodi L. Hottel

As far as I can recall the first little shiver of inspiration was somehow prompted by a newspaper story about an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who, after months of coaxing by a scientist, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.

– from the afterward of Lolita by Vladamir Nabakov

First, you have to drag the black stick on the flat, white square and make marks. Even before that, you have to figure out how to hold the stick between your fingers so that you can make the mark go where you want. Every time you come anywhere close to what they want, the humans clap, smile, and fetch more food. You can smell the stick, but don’t put it in your mouth or try to eat it. You’ll be punished.

It’ll probably take you less time than me to get the hang of it, which is why I’m telling you this—to save you trial and error.

I just looked around me and decided to copy what I saw. I made marks that went straight up and down for my cage and a square for the floor. I showed what I could see beyond the bars: sky, clouds, trees, and birds flying. I was trying to let them know I would like to be out there, and I think they understood because I saw their faces darken and fall.


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