Archives for category: Animals

by Kasey Johnson

Not to be belligerent or strange;
in fact, to be the opposite,
you cut off all of your hair.
A Samson in the 80s,
some Delilah who swallowed you
and spit you out is wandering
toward me and I like her.
She looks like the kind
who’ll stay around
even when you don’t want her.
Now your hair is silvered
with gray like a mirror is
from a distance.

One day it’s a letter
reminding me you have
a soul, burrowing inside
like a mole whose tunnels
lead to a central cavern
where all the food is stored.
Who is meant
for the habits of moles:
loose fur, close dirt, final dark.
There is always more light
to force into the earth,
always more dirt
pushing back.

One day it’s our childhoods
switching paths on the way
to forgotten places.
You call for your brothers
but most of them are gone.
I call my sister
to say I am sorry
when I am not.
It is the fugitive in both of us
singing our names,
a wanted woman, wanton
and bellowing about what it is
inside us we tried to sunder.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write because something inside tells me I must, something that is often impractical and unwieldy; however, writing provides its own elixir and I always feel more alive for the effort of putting words and phrases together.

IMAGE: “Mole” as featured in natural history book from 1926. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kasey Johnson received a BA in English from Reed College and an MA in English Literature from the University of New Mexico. She is currently a writing instructor in Corvallis, Oregon, where she also serves as an editorial assistant and book review editor for CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women. Her work is forthcoming in Verdad

by Kathryn Almy

I didn’t kill it myself, but I seem to float
towards decay.
           Instinct says stop,
drop and roll whenever any corpse washes up,

sand in my fur, this smell
changing me in a chemical way
not even my ancestors understood.

Fluff and bones are trophies, like snow-
flakes, socks, bumblebees: treasures I bury.

I open my mouth to shout in triumph, but
out comes only a hoarse croak
and puff of sticky, tickling down

          —the blades and barbs are black, mashed,
          the little white eyes hardly show,
          the iridescence dimmed.

It feels like being beaten for crimes I cannot see.

There is a knot within me: feathers, bugs, scum, and bark

          —everything I have eaten,

this eternal world beyond the reach of words.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am fortunate to live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a town of many fine writers. Just one of these is Diane Seuss, for whose class I wrote this poem.

Almy - selfie with dog

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Almy‘s poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in print and on-line publications, including the Great Lakes Review narrative map, City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry, Shady Side Review, and The Smoking Poet. Visit her at

In the distance of my years I cover myself with time
by Nancy Wood

I am a Bear.
In my solitude I resemble the wind.
I blow the clouds together
So they form images of my friends.

SOURCE: Excerpt from the poem “In the distance of my years I cover myself with time” by Nancy Wood.

SOURCE: This poem appears in Many Winters: Prose and Poetry of the Pueblos by Nancy Wood, available at (c) 1974 by Nancy Wood. For more visit

by Susan Mitchell

Tonight the bear
comes to the orchard and, balancing
on her hind legs, dances under the apple trees,
hanging onto their boughs,
dragging their branches down to earth.
Look again. It is not the bear
but some afterimage of her
like the car I once saw in the driveway
after the last guest had gone.
Snow pulls the apple boughs to the ground.
Whatever moves in the orchard—
heavy, lumbering—is clear as wind.

The bear is long gone.
Drunk on apples,
she banged over the trash cans that fall night,
then skidded downstream. By now
she must be logged in for the winter.
Unless she is choosy.
I imagine her as very choosy,
sniffing at the huge logs, pawing them, trying
each one on for size,
but always coming out again.

Until tonight.
Tonight sap freezes under her skin.
Her breath leaves white apples in the air.
As she walks she dozes,
listening to the sound of axes chopping wood.
Somewhere she can never catch up to
trees are falling. Chips pile up like snow
When she does find it finally,
the log draws her in as easily as a forest,
and for a while she continues to see,
just ahead of her, the moon
trapped like a salmon in the ice.

SOURCE: “The Bear” appears in Susan Mitchell‘s collection The Water Inside The Water (Wesleyan University Press, 1983), available at

IMAGE: “Do you mind if I have an apple?” by Thomas Phillips. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Mitchell is the author of three collections of poetry: The Water Inside the Water (1983); Rapture (1992), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and a finalist for the National Book Award; and Erotikon (2000). Her poems have appeared in magazines and journals, including New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and Fence. The recipient of three Pushcart Prizes, Mitchell’s other awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lannan Foundation. Mitchell lives in Boca Raton and teaches at Florida Atlantic University, where she holds the Mary Blossom Lee chair in creative writing.

by Gary Lawless

Treat each bear as the last bear.
Each wolf the last, each caribou.
Each track the last track.
Gone spoor, gone scat.
There are no more deertrails,
no more flyways.
Treat each animal as sacred,
each minute our last.
Ghost hooves. Ghost skulls.
Death rattles and
dry bones.
Each bear walking alone
in warm night air.

SOURCE: The Dire Elegies: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America, Edited by Karla Linn Merrifield and Roger M. Weir (Foothills Publishing, 2006), available at

IMAGE: “Black Bear, Maine” by Mark Silk. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Lawless lives the literary life — literally surrounded by books in his Gulf of Maine bookstore. He also runs a small press and teaches poetry to underserved populations, including recent immigrants and Iraq War veterans. The environment looms large as a theme in his poems – the natural world is sacred. Animals of the world are populations, cultures, and beings as much as we are. Gary Snyder, Ted Enslin, and James Kohler are his mentors. His poetry collections include Poems for the Wild Earth (1994), Caribouddihism (1998), In Ruins (2002), and Behind the Wall (2005).

by Maxine Kumin

 Advice from a pamphlet published by the Canadian Minister of the Enviroment

been here
for thousands of years.
the visitor:
encounters. Think ahead.
Keep clear
of berry patches
garbage dumps, carcasses.
On woods walks bring
noisemakers, bells.
Clap hands along the trail
or sing
but in dense bush
or by running water
bear may not hear your clatter.
Whatever else
don’t whistle. Whistling
is thought by some to imitate
the sounds bears make when they mate.
You need to know
there are two kinds:
ursus arctus horribilis
or grizzly
and ursus americanus
the smaller black
said to be
somewhat less likely to attack.
Alas, a small horribilis
is difficult to distinguish
from a large americanus.
there is no guaranteed life-saving way
to deal with an aggressive bear
some ploys
have probed more
successful than others.
Running’s a poor choice.
Bear can outrun a racehorse.
Once you’re face to face
speak softly. Take
off your pack
and set it down
to distract the grizzly,
Meanwhile back
slowly toward a large
sparsely branched tree
but remember
black bears are agile climbers
in which case
a tree may not offer escape.
As a last resort you can
play dead. Drop
to the ground face down.
In this case
wearing your pack
may shield your body from attack.
Courage. Lie still. Sometimes
you bear may veer away.
If not
bears have been known
to inflict only minor injuries
upon the prone.
Is death
by bear to be preferred
to death by bomb? Under
these extenuating circumstances
your mind may make absurd
leaps. The answer’s yes.
Come on in, Cherish
your wilderness.

SOURCE: The Dire Elegies: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America, Edited by Karla Linn Merrifield and Roger M. Weir (Foothills Publishing, 2006), available at

IMAGE: “Black Bear Has a Gentle Look” by Richard Wear. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. She was the poetry consultant for the Library of Congress in 1981-1982, and taught at many of the country’s most prestigious universities, including MIT, Princeton, and Columbia. Kumin’s poetry collections include Nurture (1989), The Long Approach (1986), Nurture, Looking for Luck (1992), Connecting the Dots: Poems (1996), The Long Marriage (2002), Inside the Halo and Beyond (1999), Jack and Other New Poems (2005), Still to Mow (2007), and Where I Live: New and Selected Poems (2011).

by Charles Harper Webb

One by one, like guests at a late party
They shake our hands and step into the dark:
Arabian ostrich; Long-eared kit fox; Mysterious starling.

One by one, like sheep counted to close our eyes,
They leap the fence and disappear into the woods:
Atlas bear; Passenger pigeon; North Island laughing owl;
Great auk; Dodo; Eastern wapiti; Badlands bighorn sheep.

One by one, like grade school friends,
They move away and fade out of memory:
Portuguese ibex; Blue buck; Auroch; Oregon bison;
Spanish imperial eagle; Japanese wolf; Hawksbill
Sea turtle; Cape lion; Heath hen; Raiatea thrush.

One by one, like children at a fire drill, they march outside,
And keep marching, though teachers cry, “Come back!”
Waved albatross; White-bearded spider monkey;
Pygmy chimpanzee; Australian night parrot;
Turquoise parakeet; Indian cheetah; Korean tiger;
Eastern harbor seal ; Ceylon elephant ; Great Indian rhinoceros.

One by one, like actors in a play that ran for years
And wowed the world, they link their hands and bow
Before the curtain falls.

SOURCE: “The Animals Are Leaving” appears in Charles Harper Webb‘s collection Amplified Dog (Red Hen Press, 2006), available at

IMAGE: “Endangered Species” by Adrian Chesterman. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charles Harper Webb was a rock guitarist for fifteen years and is now a licensed psychotherapist and professor at Cal State University, Long Beach. He has written five books of poetry, including Liver, which won the 1999 Felix Pollak Prize and Reading the Water, which won the S.F. Morse Poetry Prize and Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and Shadow Ball (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009).

by William Blake

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

SOURCE: “The Tyger” appears in William Blake‘s collection Songs of Experience (1794). According to the Cambridge Companion to William Blake, “The Tyger” is the most anthologized poem in the English language.

IMAGE: Plate from Songs of Experience, words and pictures by William Blake (printed in 1794).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Blake (1757-1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. For the most part unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered one of the greatest poets of all time in any language. As a visual artist, he has been lauded by one art critic as “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced.” (Source: Wikipedia)

by David Oliveira

Consider the elephant
standing on a ball
in the circus ring,
huge legs bunched together
to balance the great weight
of evolution
on a rolling sphere
to the cheering amazement
of the crowd.
The elephant is not amazed.
It knows precisely
of what elephants
are capable.
For just a few minutes
of work each day,
it is groomed, fed,
then left to contemplate
mathematic proofs
that organize
the particulate
behavior of light
into models
for space and time —
and seldom is bothered
by the trainers
trying to learn
another of its tricks.

SOURCE: “Elephant” appears in David Oliveira’s collection A Little Travel Story (Harbor Mountain Press, 2008), available at

IMAGE: “Balancing Act” by Rachel Hester. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Oliveira, a native of California’s San Joaquin Valley, is a graduate of California State University, Fresno, where he studied poetry writing with Philip Levine. After a career as a grade school teacher, Oliveira moved to Santa Barbara, where he was publisher and editor of Mille Grazie Press. He was a founding editor of Solo, an award-winning national journal of poetry, and founded, with poet Phil Taggart, the long-running Santa Barbara Poetry Series at the Contemporary Arts Forum. Oliveira is a recipient of an Individual Artist Award from the Santa Barbara Arts Commission, and in 2000 was named Santa Barbara’s poet laureate. In 2002, Oliveira moved to Phnom Penh, where he makes his home with his partner, Vic Thong, and is professor of English at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.

by Rachel Field

If I had a hundred dollars to spend,
Or maybe a little more,
I’d hurry as fast as my legs would go
Straight to the animal store.

I wouldn’t say, “How much for this or that?”
“What kind of a dog is he?”
I’d buy as many as rolled an eye,
Or wagged a tail at me!

I’d take the hound with the drooping ears
That sits by himself alone;
Cockers and Cairns and wobbly pups
For to be my very own.

I might buy a parrot all red and green,
And the monkey I saw before,
If I had a hundred dollars to spend,
Or maybe a little more.

SOURCE: “The Animal Store”appears in Rachel Field‘s collection from Taxis and Toadstools (Doubleday, 1926) and The Golden Book of Poetry (1947).

IMAGE: “Antique Cutout of Animals” by American School. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Field (1894-1942) was born in New York and attended Radcliffe College. Field’s novels for adults include Time Out of Mind (1935) and All This and Heaven Too (1938), which was turned into a movie starring Bette Davis and Charles Boyer. She is the author of Fear Is the Thorn (1936) as well as several poetry collections for children, including Taxis and Toadstools (1926), An Alphabet for Boys and Girls (1926), and A Circus Garland: Poems (1930). Her books for young adults include the Newbery Medal winner Hitty: Her First Hundred Years (1929), Calico Bush (1931), and God’s Pocket (1934).  Field was also a noted lyricist and playwright, penning the English lyrics for Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria included in the Disney film Fantasia. Her plays include Cinderella Married (1924), The Bad Penny (1931), and First Class Matter (1936).