The capuchin monkey held his baby tight to his
trembling chest, swiveled his head to keep eyes
on dozens of vultures perched overhead on branches.
He couldn’t understand Brevard County
zookeepers erected invisible fences
between his family and the raptors.
Vultures don’t eat living things.
They’ll swivel banded necks, sniff
air with sharp beaks seeking
something dead, not that lively baby
squirming on its father’s chest. And yet
they gather like they’ve always done, waiting
for other animals to do the hard work of dying.
Cleaning corpses a necessary job not admired
by descendants of old world monkeys.
Zookeepers placed carrion in another part
of the cage. The vultures floated on air toward
a much easier meal. The capuchin
let his little one scamper away, but
kept a sharp eye on the sky lest vultures,
not content to wait, decide to accelerate
an ending, descending from the sky to peck
at prey’s eyes. Some say vultures contain
a strange beauty, but primates still
fear carrion eaters and clean-up crews.
Garbage collectors, janitors, maids and
parents rarely receive places of honor.