Classifying the Animals

Mark Dion, Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy, 2005, Manchester Museum. Detail: Borges filing cabinet.

Classifying the Animals
(after some lines of Borges)

by Robert Gray

There are those that in the distance seem a swarm of gnats
those that with their barking try to rally us in a campaign against the stars
those that torment their prey
those that follow both sides of an argument
those that have broken a precious vase
those that can only be painted with a one-haired brush
those whose tongues light candles on the fingers of our hands
those that curl their tails
those that refute the Argument from Design, such as bedbugs and liver fluke
stupid ones who, lie still for a while and then run
those whose being is as clenched as a knot in a frozen rope
those that are bored
the good-natured beetles
those such as frogs and snails that are Enlightened beings
humans, born unable to stand
those that are fit to be emblazoned on a flag
those that should exist – unicorns and mermaids
unacceptable ones, unless we can make a great rational effort
those that cause people to smile – ladybirds, etc.
those that stir in us an erotic feeling
those that are easily broken and yet their kind continues to exist
those that one would like to be – the centaur, the phoenix.

In PN Review 191, vol. 36, no. 3, January-February 2010, p. 37.

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