Archives for posts with tag: animals

wolf yellowstone
The Wolf Story
by Nancy Lubarsky

The Brothers Grimm killed the
wolves of Yellowstone. They
transformed the solemn beasts

into greedy and gluttonous predators.
The story-wolves, often in disguise,
knocked down houses, ate red-hooded

girls or boys who cried the same word
too many times. Soon explorers and
well-to-do headed west, with the

illustrated tales tucked in their vest
pockets, rifles across their shoulders.
They didn’t know that with each wolf kill,

more elk thrived, who then ate the mountain
willows that beavers used for dams. The
banks collapsed, the rivers warmed, fish

couldn’t survive. Eagles and other fowl flew.
Yellowstone was dry, lifeless, nothing but
scat and bones. Years later, another story.

Mist rises as our raft pushes through. We
part silent waters, pass snowy peaks. Eagles
return to their nests. Otters repopulate

abandoned beaver dams. Elk appear from
nowhere. Their soft eyes on alert. The
wolves have returned, camouflaged

in new growth that now reaches the
great mountains’ edges. They persist as
sentries in this tale of survival and repair.

PHOTO: A wolf rests in the snow at Yellowstone National Park (Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I researched a lot about wolves before my visit to Yellowstone National Park. I was astonished to learn how simple fairy tales about fictional wolves misled educated people and, over time, had such a devastating, long-term impact on the ecosystem. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of many environmentalists, the gradual reintroduction of wolves has returned Yellowstone to its former beauty.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nancy Lubarsky writes from Cranford, New Jersey. An educator for over 35 years, she retired as a superintendent. Nancy has been published in various journals, including Exit 13, Lips, Tiferet, Poetic, Stillwater Review, and Paterson Literary Review. Nancy received honorable mention in the 2014 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards and again in 2016 and 2018. She is the author of two books—Tattoos (Finishing Line Press) and The Only Proof (Kelsay Books, a Division of Aldrich Press). Nancy received honorable mention from The Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Contest (2018). She also has had three Pushcart Prize nominations.

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I Am Not a Dog
by Mary O’Brien

I hear you early, morning,
when I am reading and trying
to write about the wildness so distant to me now.

I hear you trickster—chattering, signaling.
You have seized upon the avenue of encroachment
left by our retreat into urban lives.

Along the edge you travel,
You do not blink, but skulk,
your sacred manner Twain’s living allegory of Want.

If you are foraging an opening into our world,
prying an edge we think is seamed shut,
could you catch our long-tailed, big-toothed, shaggy marauders
venturing into your domain, when curbside bins are empty?

Soon you may be scarce again.
Through withdrawal or attrition,
your howl silenced, at our hand.

Telemetry is tracking you,
An ear tag guarantees your future.
Did you notice? You were not supposed to mind.

PHOTO: Coyote by Thomas Hawk.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the great pause, I thought frequently of the vacancy humans had left in the wilderness we are so fond of making into our playground. Were its wild inhabitants doing better without us? This poem was written in the early morning hours, when the air is still and all is quiet. I could hear the wildlife on the periphery of my neighborhood going about their business during the hours we humans usually sleep. Neighborhood dogs sleep too, unaware their territory is being invaded by their nocturnal kin. Native American legend, as well as the scientific name Canis latrans, tag Coyote as “barking dog.” But in the legend, Coyote, the Trickster, claps back: “I am not a dog.”

PHOTO: California Coyote by Mary O’Brien.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary O’Brien is an environmental writer and installation artist. Her writing evolves out of her engagement with place and community, and the research she develops for environmental art installations. Her nonfiction works delve into ecological loss and community resilience. O’Brien’s public art installations can be seen at watershedsculpture.com. Her essays have been published in Soren Lit, Field to Palette, Stanford University’s MAHB Journal; The Solutions Journal; and in Women’s Eco Artist Dialogue. Visit her on Facebook and Instagram.

Author photo by Daniel McCormick. 

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Longhorns and Snowdrops
by Jenny Bates

The soul is the same in all living creatures,
although the body of each is different. — Hippocrates

Snowdrops grow at the edge of a field next to Lancashire cows.
Horns descend from their faces, the curve drooping graceful as flower petals.
Weary host of tree branches wear ice, delicate as lacewings.
Fragile to breaking from a wren’s pish.
January ends, tells us to think again.
Resurrection never ends, even in an orgy of snow.
Now becomes meaningless mush,
afraid of nothing at all being familiar.
Falling on ice, mind eating worms wriggling through ears…
like a wild woodchuck trapped in a library,
I ruff up my fur —
rescue outraging me further.
What would happen if we realized black
wasn’t black at all, only dark green?
Iridescent as a Crow’s wing?
A ruthless thought that could change history
marches over ridges, across valleys, pressing close.
The wild, dark, beautiful, remote, secret words are
travel-thoughts by foot, because there are
no real roads.
How to heal the earth? I ask Hippocrates.
The cow munches near petaline
white spread.
Raises his head in hope.

PHOTO: Snorty by Jim Champion.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
I have lived in the Piedmont Foothills for 26 of my 39 years as a resident of North Carolina. I am locally known in Stokes County as an animal whisperer, especially to donkeys, coyotes and “Crow Folk.” My experience is full of friendships I would never have thought possible. Adjacent to Hanging Rock State Park, I myself have blurred the lines between what is tame and what is not. My surroundings for the most part are still and peaceful and timeless. The woods go on and on forever, you think, and there’s nobody in them but you. My poetry reflects all of this unique relationship I have to the area of land and the company of animals I keep. My poetry yearns and transfigures itself, like nature.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenny Bates is a member of Winston-Salem Writers. NC Poetry Society, and NC Writers Network. Her published books include Opening Doors: an equilog of poetry about Donkeys (Lulu Publishing, NC,  2010), Coyote with Coffee (Catbird on the Yadkin Press, NC 2014), Visitations (Hermit Feathers Press, NC 2019), and Slip, her new collection (Hermit Feathers Press, NC 2020).

cat by warhol 1976
Missing Gizmo
by Shelly Blankman

You disappeared into the darkness two years ago.
I don’t know why. People say you were only a cat
and that’s what cats do. But you weren’t just a cat.

Cats don’t shred calendars or stash eyeglasses under
a bed. The don’t steal pizza or chow mein from the plate
of their humans or drink from their straws, and they don’t hitch

rides on the hips of dogs six times their size. You’d greet me
each morning by leaping on my shoulder, slept by my side
whenever I was down, drew blood with your nips whenever

we played and then looked at me innocently like a child as
if to say, “What did I do?” when you knew. I’d just laugh, and
you knew I’d do that, too. You’d lick my tears dry and when

I was sick, you’d curl your body around my neck like a scarf,
and stay with me until I’d fall asleep to the lullaby of your purrs.
But you were sick. Almost from the time you rescued me.

Maybe at some point, you’d had enough of vets’ visits; I’ll
never know. We hired two search dogs to find you, posted
ads, knocked on doors, cruised neighborhoods. Nothing.

Still, I wait. Every time I leave the house. Each corner I turn,
each yard I pass, I look for you. Each bush that rustles I hope
it’s you — exhausted, starved, desperate to find your way home.

After two years, I am still waiting…

IMAGE: Cat by Andy Warhol (1976).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I saw the prompt for this submission, Jon’s and my cat, Gizmo, immediately came to mind. Of all the rescues we’ve ever had, Gizmo stands out as the worst in the best possible way. He was the Katzenjammer Kid of the Animal Kingdom, and our house hasn’t been the same since he ran off over two years ago. He probably didn’t last much longer after he escaped. He’d always been sick and no amount of excellent medical care seemed to make a difference for very long. I know he’s never coming back. Still, I wait.

PHOTO: The author and her beloved cat, Gizmo.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman lives in Columbia, Maryland, with her husband of 40 years, three rescue cats, and a foster dog. They have two sons, Richard and Joshua, who are currently quarantined in New York and Texas, respectively. Shelly’s educational and career paths have followed public relations and journalism, but her first love has always been poetry. Her work has been published in such publications as New Verse News, Halfway Down The Stairs, and The Ekphrastic Review. Richard and Joshua recently published her first book of poetry, Pumpkinhead.

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Of Want and Moonlight and Patience and Time
by Julia Klatt Singer

I shaped you out of clay,
set you on the brick patio, near the edge
so you would have grass to eat
when you came to life—
for who doesn’t start the world hungry?
And so too, that I could see you from
my bedroom window.

How many times did I wake
that night, look for my horse
in the moonlit backyard?

I was never afraid of the magic.
Was more afraid of how
I’d explain you to my parents and
to the neighbors, a lilac hedge away.

Dreamed you, your warm body
your soft eyes, the way you’d
nuzzle my hand, find something
good in it, good in me.

Come morning, you were still
the clay horse I had formed
small enough to hold in my hand
sitting on the brick patio, damp with dew.

It wasn’t until my first son was born
that I understood the magic—
forming something out of want
and moonlight and patience and time.

I am still waiting for you
my chestnut pony. Dream you
grazing in an open field, the sun
on your back, your unblinking gaze
as I feed you apple from my open hand.

PAINTING: Blue Horse I by Franz Marc (1911).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As I child I remember waiting for a number of things—holidays and birthdays, school to start and end, rides home, and sermons to finish. I have made peace with most of those, learned to let time enter me, the way I enter it—moment by moment. But I’m not sure I ever got over this dream horse.Was thoroughly convinced I could make a horse and make it mine. Give it a body. Give it moonlight. Want it like I wanted life; to spring forth because I could picture it, smell it, feel it. I shaped it out of clay. I could picture the horse it would become. Our backyard was small, but I’d ride it wherever it wanted to go. I could not have loved or wanted that horse more. And I felt the disappointment. The hard fact of my love and want not being enough, to make this horse real.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julia Klatt Singer is the poet-in-residence at Grace Nursery School. She is co-author of Twelve Branches: Stories from St. Paul (Coffee House Press), author of In the Dreamed of Places, (Naissance Press), A Tangled Path to HeavenUntranslatable, (North Star Press), and her most recent chapbook, Elemental (Prolific Press). Audio poems from Elemental are at OpenKim, as the element Sp.  She’s co-written numerous songs with composers Craig Carnahan, Jocelyn Hagen, and Tim Takach.

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Creature Comforts
by Shelly Blankman

Dedicated to Dr. Barbara Feinstein and the staff of the Cat and Dog Hospital of Columbia, Maryland, and to all other animal caregivers who continue to work under difficult conditions to ensure that our pets stay healthy and safe.

Our calico cat curls in my lap, purrs softly
in sync with the engine of our car, now the
waiting room of the veterinarian’s office.

The glaring sun nearly blocks our windshield view
of masked vets and techs, their clothing wet with sweat,
rushing from car to car, lugging cages of sick cats,
cradling huge dogs, too sick to walk into the office,
now a barricade from a world too fragile for humanity.

Pan stirred, her hurt leg stiff. I kissed her soft fur,
whispered she would be fine, hoping she would be fine,
praying that in this pandemic world, worried owners
would not be waiting in their cars for empty cages, empty arms.
,
Doctors were hard to visit now. Receptionists were working
from home. Patients were seen by computer.
But veterinarians? They were there, the staff stripped of amenities,
layered with restrictions, always at the ready. No breaks, no backup.
They were there to help our Pan, our latest rescue,
in far worse pain than we’d realized, to diagnose her,
to be there for her and for so many other animals
in need of a healing, human touch.

These are the unsung heroes of the pandemic,
offering comfort to creatures who could not speak
the language of pain.

IMAGE: The Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1873).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My creative process differs from poem to poem, but is usually from personal experience. Animals are very close to my heart, and so when Pan was injured, it broke my heart. As often happens, the poem just evolved from my heart. The process from there was just a matter of mechanics.

PHOTO: Veterinarian Dr. Barbara Feinstein, Cat and Dog Hospital, of Columbia, Maryland.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman and her husband live in Columbia, Maryland, and have two sons, Richard, who lives in New York, and Joshua, who lives in Texas. She is also an at-home mom of three rescue cats—Stripe, Sheldon, and Pan (found during the pandemic), and a foster dog, Mia. Shelly followed a career path of journalism, public relations, and copy editing. Now she has returned to her first love, poetry. Richard and Joshua surprised her with a book of her poetry, Pumpkinhead, available on Amazon.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Pan is doing fine now! She has been  my greatest source of  comfort following a series of deaths during the pandemic. I think animals are incredible and so are the people who go beyond the call of duty to care for them.

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Vet’s office
by Mari Ness

They are still cheerful, on the phone.
Clients can’t come in, but we
can bring our pets
to the door. I arrange a date. They
come out into the heat, the burning sun
take my little cat, promise
to call. I take
a slow route home.
By the time I’m there, the vet
has already called. It’s time.
For this, I am allowed inside.
Whenever I am ready
to say my last words
through a mask.
This is when
I should give you a hug,
the vet says. But. She holds
the furry body. We all
hope the virus doesn’t spread through tears.

Photo by Gerd Altmann, used by permission. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mari Ness lives in central Florida. Her fiction has appeared in multiple publications, including Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Uncanny, Nightmare, Diabolical Plots, Apex and Fantasy. She tweets at @mari_ness, and occasionally remembers to update her blog at marikness.wordpress.com.

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St. Petersburg Animals
by Virginia Lowe

It didn’t dance
this little muzzled bear
clung with real affection
to its carer
master, owner, handler
Unaware
that all around the newlyweds
might pay to hold it
Fertility symbol
that it was

Baby bear —
yes I held you
and paid money for the privilege.
As I stroked your coarse brown fur
and restrained your struggles
to return to your only friend
I thought,
tears in my eyes,
where oh where
is your mother?
And where will you go
when you’ve grown?

Also represented
where the brides flocked
beneath the statue of the Emperor
on his rearing horse
were other animals
Dogs of various breeds
Doves hidden in long boxes
An elegant black stallion
wearing red leggings
led by a girl of eight.

As three musicians
(all brass) started up
Mendelssohn’s wedding march
over and over
to greet each new
bridal party
and Neptune posed
in full finery —
money changed hands
photos were taken
corks popped.
There were smiles all round.

To tourists elsewhere
the street sellers hawk
bags of tomatoes, socks (four pairs left)
and the ubiquitous
Babushka dolls all nesting.

But in the depths of the city
where tourists rarely go
is an underground pedestrian walk
lined with women
each holding
one or two subdued—drugged?
kittens for sale
Not for the tourist eyes. Nyet to photos

IMAGE: View of the monument to Peter the Great on the Senate Square in St. Petersburg, Russia. Painting by Vasily Surikov (1870).

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great (1672-1725) in the Senate Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia, that opened to the public in August 1782. Commissioned by Catherine the Great, it was created by the French sculptor Étienne Maurice Falconet. The statue’s name comes from an 1833 poem of the same name by Aleksander Pushkin.

PHOTO: Equestrian statue of Peter the Great (The Bronze Horseman) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the city he founded in 1703. Photo by Godot13, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The statue of Peter the Great on horseback is the place where wedding parties go to be photographed in St. Petersburg. And there they are met by many people, many animals. Taxis pull up outside the square with giant entwined wedding rings on top, bride and groom within. This was the scene that met our eyes when we visited in 1999. I imagine it is still happening.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Virginia Lowe is an expert in children’s books, and helps people toward publication through her assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book . She has been a children’s and school librarian, and has lectured at university. She has been published in numerous anthologies including Mother Lode (2003), Poetry d’Amour 2017, and This is Home (National Library of Australia, 2019). A collection of her poems alternating with those of her husband, John Lowe, is Melbourne Poets’ Union Chapbook #27, Lines Between (2018).

PHOTO: The author with her husband John Lowe at their home in Australia.

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Camels at Font’s Point
by Cynthia Anderson

At dawn, the badlands hide
nothing, their ridges and washes
repeating, impenetrable—

tale upon tale of entrapment,
a labyrinth of extinction.
The present wavers, enfolds

a mirage of water and grass,
drama of ghosts. Gold light
shines on golden flanks.

They were here.
For millions of years,
they ate and drank their fill,

roamed in herds and alone,
laid down trackways
and bones.

Time holds them tightly—
time and rock, sun and dust—
and the gusts scour their footprints.

PHOTO: Camel metal sculpture by Ricardo Breceda, Borrego Springs, California. Photo by Eric Laudonien, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It was April 2000. My husband, Bill Dahl, and I were on a desert getaway to Borrego Springs—one of our favorite spots, a place we have visited countless times over the years. On this trip, we got up before dawn and bounced down a washboard dirt road to Font’s Point, barely making it to the overlook in our Honda Accord. Our goal: to catch the sunrise over the badlands. ¶ The vista spread out before us, a spellbinding maze. No sound, no movement—only stillness, stretching far back into deep time. Bill got the photo he came for, and I got something totally unexpected from a battered sign: an introduction to the ancient creatures that once lived here among streams and meadows—horses, camels, mammoths, sloths, bears. ¶ Out of this prehistoric bestiary, the camels captured my imagination. I had no idea that camels originated in North America, and that many species of camels, small to large, used to roam throughout Southern California. I started following their trail, visiting camel fossils in museums and learning about their history. Many years later, I completed a long poem about the camels which appears in my book Desert Dweller. This is the first section of that poem, commemorating where my journey began. ¶ For anyone interested in the ancient camels, two of the best places to see fossils and learn more are the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and the Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont. Also, for Borrego lovers, the book Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert (Sunbelt Publications, 2006) is an excellent resource.

PHOTO: View of Anza-Borrego Desert (California) from Font’s Point by Bill Dahl, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a California State Park located within the Colorado Desert of Southern California. The park takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, a Spanish word for sheep. With 600,000 acres, representing one-fifth of San Diego County, it is the largest state park in California.

Cynthia Anderson in 2000 at font's point

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she has published nine poetry collections, most recently Now Voyager with illustrations by Susan Abbott. She is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens and guest editor of Cholla Needles 46. Visit her at cynthiaandersonpoet.com.

PHOTO: The author standing at Font’s Point with the Anza-Borrego Desert behind her.

Licensed Patrick Morrissey
Let’s Hear It for the Horses
by Tricia Knoll

One million dead in the Civil War,
if you count the mules.
Which I do.

I say, blowtorch the rebel men
off their statue mounts and keep
the horses prancing on their pedestals.

They were not traitors
to their country, showed no sign
of caring who they carried,

black or white, male or
female. No one questions
their service to equality.

They did the work
they were asked to do
without a nod at glory.

Previously published in the author’s collection How I Learned To Be White. 

PHOTO: Monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Charlottesville, Virginia, by Patrick Morrissey, used by permission. The photo shows an orange safety barrier erected around the monument to prevent vandalism.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In April 2017, the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, voted, by a margin of three to two, to remove the Robert E. Lee monument as a remnant of the city’s Confederate past and defense of slavery.  During the following months, protests erupted over the statue’s removal. On August 12, 2017, counter-protester Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 others injured when a protester drove his car into a crowd that had gathered to support the monument’s elimination. Two years later, in June 2019, James Fields, 22, was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years for the crimes. A Virginia law went into effect on July 1, 2020 giving local governments broad powers to take down war memorials. Charlottesville is now in attempting to have a judge remove a prior injunction preventing the city from taking down the statue.  As of late July 2020, the Robert E. Lee monument remains in place.

PHOTO: Virginia Senator Tim Kaine stands before a makeshift memorial for Heather Heyer, who was killed by James Fields on August 12, 2017 in a car ramming incident. (Source: Office of Senator Tim Kaine.)

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I have been horse crazy since I was a child. At the age of 72, I just finished a book on the history of wild horses around the world by Dayton O. Hyde. I admire the horses who sit under the Confederate generals in statues around the country. I am glad to see the statues coming down, but I think too of the horses.

PHOTO: Woman and horse at sunset by Viacheslav Nemyrivskyi, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Tricia Knoll’s work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her collected books of poetry include Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press), Ocean’s Laughter (Kelsay Books), and Broadfork Farm (The Poetry Box). Her recent collection How I Learned To Be White received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry. Read more of her work at triciaknoll.com. Find her on Amazon and Twitter.