Raymond Miller


We were visiting a zoo, somewhere near Cork, 
and I’d drifted ahead of the wife and kids
while they dawdled in the reptile house. 
A small pack of women and children 
were gathered around the tapir enclosure, 
watching as the male performed 
cunnilingus upon the female. 
Some of the mothers began shepherding 
their charges away in embarrassment, 
others giggled, laughing and pointing 
their mobile phones like paparazzi. 
It seemed a gross violation of privacy 
but the captive couple paid no mind, 
he beavering away indefatigably, 
she with that bored, impassive expression
that inhabits the face of the porn heroine 
before the cameras start rolling. 
After five minutes or so the crowd began to thin
and I should have been trying to find my family, 
but I was conscious I was the only male spectator 
and to leave now would be conspicuous, 
an acknowledgement that I couldn’t compete
with this tapir, sexually speaking. 
I was also curious to see how this gig panned out, 
whether his exertions would be repaid in kind, 
so I persevered until eventually the sole voyeurs
were myself and a woman nearby. 
She was a ride, as they say in these parts, 
and stared intently at the goings-on.
“He’s very thorough”, I remarked. 
“He is that. I should be so lucky”, she responded. 
She sounded flirty and I began to feel 
an affinity with our male tapir, he and I 
were suddenly fellow-travellers. 
I’d a witty riposte on the tip of my tongue when 
my youngest daughter appeared at my arm.
“Dad, they’re feeding the penguins!”
Now since penguins are my thing, 
favourite animal in the world and all that, 
to have remained where I was would have led 
to suspicions as to my motives. 
So I said goodbye to the flirt and left,
to go watch birds catch fish in their mouths, 
still wondering if that female 
would have reciprocated his kindness.

Flights, Issue Eight, March 2023