selections from American Bestiary // Christopher Martin

Wild is anything that’s not at home
In Something else’s place.

           —Wendell Berry, “Sabbaths 1995, II”

These are animals so full of the inner world
they pad through the dark and leave no tracks in the body’s clearings.

          —John Lane, “The Body is Full of Animals I’ve Never Seen”

[Artist's Note]

These photographs, along with some written fragments not included here, are part of a series I began roughly three years ago about the Yellow River Game Ranch – a privately owned, small-scale, and questionably maintained zoo, located in the piedmont of north-central Georgia, with an emphasis on animals native to the eastern United States. I’ve visited the Yellow River Game Ranch as a child and as a parent, and I’ve left each time with a pathos and a conflict I cannot quite name. These photos and words, I suppose, are my attempt to find a name – and that, of course, recalls Genesis and what very well could be the original problem. At any rate, the last time I went to the Yellow River Game Ranch, I took a notebook, a camera, and—though this happened to be the first trip there with one of my children—a purposeful lack of sentimentality. The camera was a basic digital one: the camera of the casual observer, the would-be memory-preserver, who tries to remember by forgetting, by documenting what was staged and didn’t really happen. That’s why I focused on the bars. What I am interested in mostly, reflecting on these photos now, are those bars, caught in a certain light, illuminated like the myth that separates us.

Black Bear

American Crow

Mountain Lion

Christopher Martin is author of three poetry chapbooks: Marcescence: Poems from Gahneesah (Finishing Line Press, 2014), co-authored with David King; Everything Turns Away (La Vita Poetica Press, 2014); and A Conference of Birds (New Native Press, 2012). His work has appeared in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia (Texas Review Press, 2012), Shambhala Sun, Waccamaw, Ruminate Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, Still: The Journal, Buddhist Poetry Review, Town Creek Poetry, and elsewhere. The editor of Flycatcher, a contributing editor at New Southerner, and winner of the 2014 George Scarbrough Award for Poetry, Chris lives with his wife and their two young children in northwest Georgia, between the Allatoona Range and Kennesaw Mountain. You can find him online at