Wednesday, October 04, 2006

 

A Small Petting Zoo of Animal Poems

for World Animal Day (although a day late).

An armada of thirty whales

(galleons in sea-pomp) sails
over the emerald ocean.

The ceremonial motion
of their ponderous race is

given dandiacal graces
in the ballet of their geysers.

Eyes deep-set in whalebone vizors
have found a Floridian beach;

they leave their green world to fish.
Like the Pliocene midge, they declare

their element henceforth air.
What land they walk upon

becomes their Holy Land;
when these pilgrims have all found tongue

how their canticles shall be sung!
They nudge the beach with their noses,

eager for hedgerows and roses;
their raise their great snouts from the sea

and exulting gigantically
each trumpets a sousaphone wheeze

and stretches his finfitted knees.
But they who won't swim and can't stand

lie mired in mud and in sand,
and the sea and the wind and the worms

will contest the last willof the sperms.

--Daniel Hoffman

***

Being Accomplished

Balancing on her haunches, the mouse can accomplish
Certain things with her hands. She can pull the hull
From a barley seed in paperlike pieces the size of threads.
She can turn and turn a crumb to create smaller motes
The size of her mouth. She can burrow in sand and grasp
One single crystal grain in both of her hands.
A quarter of a dried pea can fill her palm.

She can hold the earless, eyeless head
Of her furless baby and push it to her teat.
The hollow of its mouth must feel like the invisible
Confluence sucking continually deep inside a pink flower.

And the mouse is almost compelled
To see everything. Her hand, held up against the night sky,
Can scarcely hide Venus or Polaris
Or even a corner of the crescent moon.
It can cover only a fraction of the blue moth's wing.
Its shadow could never mar or blot enough of the evening
To matter.

Imagine the mouse with her spider-sized hands
Holding to a branch of dead hawthorn in the middle
Of the winter field tonight. Picture the night pressing in
Around those hands, forced, simply by their presence,
To fit its great black bulk exactly arond every hair
And every pinlike nail, fored to outline perfectly
Every needle-thin bone without crushing one, to carry
Its immensity right up to the precise boundary of flesh
But no farther. Think how the heavy weight of infinity,
Expanding outward in all directions forever, is forced,
Nevertheless, to mold itself right here and now
To every peculiarity of those appendages.

And even the mind, capable of engulfing
The night sky, capable of enclosing infinity,
Capable of surrounding itself inside any contemplation,
Has been obliged, for this moment, to accomodate the least
Grasp of that mouse, the dot of her knuckle, the accomplishment
Of her slightest intent.

--Pattiann Rogers

***

Cows

Seen from a distance, dappled and picturesque
in the green meadows of June, they are schoolgirls
on a Saturday outing with their doting teacher,
fussing at braid ribbons, sashes, reminding them
where there is mud, where there are briars, thorns.
You expect them to form a single file, uphill
singing their school song. But no,
they do not budge. It's you who climb
over the fence to take a second look.
Now they are matrons, big portly flanks
of settled ideas, how things are done,
rights and wrongs like clunky bells at their necks,
tight little lace-up boots in allthis mud.
They should be having polite conversation,
clich├ęs like dainty china tinkling with use.
Doe eyes turn towards you as you approach
seeing, unseeing, who knows? There is no reaction --
as if you had time-traveled here, a future ghost
among these Victorian ladies at their repose
in these their green impeccable 19th century parlors.
But look close, the future you dragged here
like mud on your shoes has soiled their thick carpets.
Before your eyes these gals are coming apart:
green cud dribbling from their mouths, udders
distended and pink hang close to the ground,
nipples leaking near to their milking time.
It's as if you were watching their becoming
contemporaries. Down with proprieties!
The ladies grow randy, decadent, belch their moos.
They chew their cud noisily, lift their tails,
and drop their turds, amble away, wagging their hips.
As if the most indentured, settled mind
might break the bonds by which it enslaves itself
climb over the fence to take a closer look.

--Julia Alvarez

***

The Snow Monkey Argues with God

Four days the mother
Snow Monkey carries
her still-born baby
before she leaves it

by a rocky stream. Then
she finds a high place
where she can brood alone
and still see her sisters

with their babies.
Four days she groomed
what should have been
as lively as these others.

If the Snow Monkey hurts
this way, can she not
also know what death is?
Or at least what it is not.

The thing she left downstream
is not like these babies,
tugging and pulling
at their mothers, trying

to focus four-day-old
eyes on falling water
and sunlight skittering
under moving tree-branches.

While she watches her sisters
tenderly nursing
their young, she must feel
the wordless

old quarrel: better
that this paradise be burnt
to a clean white ash
than for any living

creature to have to lay down
on streamside rocks
what has been loved, what
stinks to high heaven.

--David Huddle

***

The Hen

The Hen
Worships the dust. She finds God everywhere.
Everywhere she finds his jewels.
And she does not care
What the cabbage thinks.

She has forgotten flight
Because she has interpreted happily
Her recurrent dream
Of clashing cleavers, of hot ovens,
And of the little pen-knife blade
Splitting her palate.
She flaps her wings, like shallow egg-baskets,
To show her contempt
For those who live on escape
And a future of empty sky.

She rakes, with noble, tireless foot,
The treasury of the dirt,
And clucks with the mechanical alarm clock
She chose instead of song
When the Creator
Separated the Workers and the Singers.

With her eye on reward
She tilts her head religiously
At the most practical angle
Which reveals to her
That the fox is a country superstition,
That her eggs have made man her slave
And tht the heavens, for all their threatening,
Have not yet fallen.

And she is stern. Her eye is fierce -- blood
(That weakness) is punished instantly.
She is a hard bronze of uprightness.
And indulges herself in nothing
Except to swoon a little, a delicious slight swoon,
One eye closed, just before sleep,
Conjouring the odour of tarragon.

--Ted Hughes

***

The Manatee

Deep sunk in the dreamtime of his terminal coma,
the manatee persists like a vegetative outpatient,
victim of the whirling propellers of impatience
and a buoyantly bovine quiescence gone nova.

Dream deep, brother. Dream long and deep, sister sea-cow.
May millenia of soft tides and seagrass sustain thy sleep
across the dark ages of extinction. May your memory keep
heavy the hearts and hulls of your inheritors. Us, for now.

--Campbell McGrath

***

Silverfish

It lives in the damps of rejection,
in the dark drain, feeding upon the effluvia
of what we are, of what we've already been.

Everything comes down to this: we are its living --
the fallen hair, the fingernail, the grease from a pore,
used toothpaste, a detritus of whiskers and dead skin.

All this comes down and worries it into life,
its body soft as lymph, a living expectoration,
a glorified rheum. In the silent morning

when we least expect it, it is there
on the gleaming white porcelain: the silver scales,
the many feelers busy busy so fast, it is

unnerving, causing a certain panic in us,
a galvanic revulsion (Will it reach us
before we reach it?
), its body

translucent, indefinable, an electric jelly
moving with beautiful sweeps of the feet
like a sinuous trireme, delicate and indecent,

sexual and cleopatric. It moves for a moment
in the light, while its silver flashes and slides,
and part of us notices an elusive beauty,

an ingenious grace in what has been cast off.
As if tears and the invisibly falling dandruff,
skin cells and eyelashes

returned with an alien and silken intelligence,
as if chaos were always disintegrating into order,
elastic and surprising,

as if every cell had a second chance
to link and glitter and climb toward the light,
feeling everything as if for the first time --

pausing stunned, stupefied with light.
Before we, frightened by such possibilities,
with a large wad of tissue come down on it,

and crush it until it is nothing
but dampness and legs, an ioly smear
writing a broken Sanskrit on the paper,

a message we choose not to read
before committing it to the water
swirling blankly at our touch,

hoping that will take care of it,
trying not to think of it -- the dark
from which it will rise again.

--Robert Siegel

***

Finches Feeding

They fall like feathered cones from the tree above,
sumi the painted grass where the birdseed is,
skirl like a boiling pot
or a shallow within a river --
a bar of gravel breaking the water up.

Having said that, what have I said?
Not much.

Neither my delight nor the length of my watching is conveyed
and nothing profound recorded, yet these birds
as I observe them
stir such feelings up --
such yearnings for weightlessness, for hollow bones,
rapider heartbeat, east/west eyes
and such wonder -- seemingly half remembered -- as they rise
spontaneously into air, like feathered cones.

--P. K. Page

***

Mollusc

By its nobship sailing upside down,
by its inner sexes, by the crystalline
pimplings of its skirts, by the sucked-on
lifelong kiss of its toppling motion,
by the viscose optics now extruded
now wizened instanteously, by the
ridges grating up a food-path, by
the pop shell in its nick of dry,
by excretion, the earthworm coils,the glibbing,
by the gilt slipway, and by pointing
perhaps as far back into time as
ahead, a shore being folded interior,
by boiling on salt, by hiding the Oligocene
underleaf may this and every snail sense
itself ornament the the weave of presence.

--Les Murray

***

The Moth

The moth
having left its pupa
in the galaxy of flour grains
and pots of rancid
drippings,

the moth
discovers in this
topical darkness
that it's a kind of butterfly
but
it can't believe it,
it can't believe it,

it can't believe
that it's a tiny,
flying, relatively
free moth

and it wants to go back,
but there's no way.

Freedom makes
the moth tremble
forever, that is,
twenty-two hours.

-- Miroslav Holub
(translated from the Czechoslovakian
by David Young and Dana Habova)


***

Herd of Buffalo Crossing the Missouri on Ice

If dragonflies can mate atop the surface tension
of water, surely these tons of bison can mince
across the river, their fur peeling in strips like old

wallpaper, their huge eyes adjusting to how far
they can see when there's no big or little bluestem,
no Indian grass nor prairie cord grass to plod through.

Maybe because it's bright in the blown snow
and swirling grit, their vast heads lowered
to the gray ice: nothing to eat, little to smell.

They have their own currents. You could watch a herd
of running pronghorn swerve like a river rounding
a meander and see better what I mean. But

bison are a deeper, deliberate water, and there will
never be enough water for any West but the one
into which we watch these bison carefully disappear.

--William Matthews



Comments:
Hedgie, What a surprise, I enjoyed this series!
 
Thanks for stopping by; glad you enjoyed these.
 
Thanks, Hedgie, these are great.
 
I love the careful precision that Pattiann Rogers uses when putting together her images, and I love all the allusions in Hughes 'Hen.' In fact I enjoyed all of the selection, not least that triple take in 'Cows.'

I always look forward to your selections Hedgie, because of the wide reach that you gather in one spot- brilliant!
 
Thanks, all; glad you enjoyed petting the critters.
 
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