Friday, 30 March 2018

Sudden Prose Reprints: 'You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave' by Maya Catherine Popa

You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave

after the 2015 Tbilisi flood

Half the zoo mislaid, the reporter calls them residents, as though they lived in a gracious, gated community. Twelve Georgian men push one perplexed hippo: no Russell Crowe as Noah, no sidekick with a checklist. How to convince a lion to return to its cage when it's seen the Narikala lit at night? The things you wished you would happen in this life have you caught in old affection, fresh confusion. In your version, the animals were never hungry or afraid. They climbed the trees of Tbilisi for a better view. The wolves returned to forests in the Trialeti Mountains. The fate of birds was ambiguous as the founding legend of King Gorgasali who, huntin, shot a pheasant that fell into a spring, cooked or healed, accounts differ. So the literal king named the place "Tpili" meaning warm. Three brown bears lie limp in mud as police, in the ultimate video game sequence, big-game hunt the square at night. Your wish, succumbed to its alterations. At mass, the priest reminds the congregation that bells and crosses melted down by communists became the bars of cages, the ticket operator's chair. You always wished the animals would leave, their problem-solving spirits put to use, lifting fruits from markets, befriending lonely citizens. But time twists your childhood dream until it's nothing but a game of telephone, just as the bird, or was it a deer, or the king himself, fell into the waters and was spared.

Maya Catherine Popa
You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave (New Michigan Press, 2018)

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