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[This poem won The Formalist's 1995 Howard

Nemerov Award.  It also won the New England

Poetry Club's 1996 Gretchen Warren Award. Ed.] 



Moscow Zoo


We saw the mass grave at the Moscow Zoo.

A sullen man dug up a human skull

Then held it high for journalists to view.

Forensic specialists arrived to cull

Remains and clues from this forgotten plot

On which the zoo still plans to cage a bear.

The experts guessed these prisoners were shot

For special reasons; no one was aware

Of comparable scenes at urban sites.

No one knew if these bones belonged to spies,

Suspected Jews or zealous Trotskyites,

So none of us displayed the least surprise

When bureaucrats emerged from quiet cars

To hint this might have been the work of czars.


A.M. Juster



A.M. Juster; originally printed in The Formalist;
used by permission of the author.

Background by
Lewis Eaton

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