The Sadness of a Dead Unicorn


22 October 2010

Click here to read about why the wonderful essayist at Bookslut, Elizabeth Bachner, grew weepy and then wise, thinking about cruelty to rare animals – like Grunbein’s okapi – and the book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough.


“To an Okapi in the Munich Zoo”
by Durs Grünbein (trans. Michael Hofman)

The clank of a steel door, and the ignominious entrance
Of the heraldic beast, trembling, because it’s feeding time,
And the keeper wants to knock off, and the beastly onlookers are laughing…
These are things not writ in any unicorn legend. Okapi—
The word is from jungle languages, now themselves extinct,
Insufficiently tall for the savannah, this patient, rust-colored
Throat merits its pellets of straw, and its locked stall at night.
Because the free range world will be strange to him,
As strange as to the bemused visitor
This combination of giraffe and zebra,
Equally remote from the familiar childhood cutout of either.
One more ruminant from the olden days, a sentry
Planted along the zoological roadside, as though to warn
Against the pathos of the exotic throwback.


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