Archives for posts with tag: animals

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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).

blankman- prime mover Dr. Barbara Feinstein

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.

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The Onslaught at my Front Door
by Joseph Johnston

It wasn’t a rapping so much as it was an occasional flutter, a squeak from the hinges, a whisper of pressure on the storm door.

I noticed it during the first week of quarantine but chalked it up to the wind. Maybe.

Second week it was more persistent. Harder to ignore. A regular crashing at the front door. Convince myself it’s the pestilence.

Should I see who is there? Do I break the fourth wall? Let the disease in?

Much easier to just camp out in the basement and ignore the obvious. Maintain my controllable dimensions.

I hauled a tiny fridge down there and the coffee pot and the TV and the litter box and the best blankets. And the good rocker/recliner.

Third week I made it all the way to Wednesday completely ignoring the onslaught at my front door. I still don’t know how.

My fingernails were worn down to nubs, embarrassing versions of their former selves. And I couldn’t manage any TV. I was just sitting there. Rocking. Remembering.

Defending castle from disease. Hands over ears, hearing nothing.

Thursday. Thud. Crash. THUD. CRASH. And repeat. The storm door coming off the hinges. And no wind to speak of. The point of no ignoring.

I don’t want to investigate. I’m tired of investigations and ruminations and interrogations and suspicions. I’m tired of masks and their accusations.

I’m so tired. But I can’t make the noise stop. I have to answer the door. I have to face disease and death.

I wrap a novelty bandanna around my face and rack the deadbolt wide open. Turn the knob. Expecting zombies, I unleash the outside, in.

But it’s just a deer. Maybe six months old. Crashing into its reflection, in my direction.

I tape a drape over the storm glass and breathe.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It’s astonishing how quickly my mistrust of others has grown since the pandemic began. This is probably what I hate most of all these days. I don’t want to mistrust others, but I can’t help but feel like my life is on the line whenever I have to interact with someone. With this prompt, I tried to tell the story of how this new paranoia turned my front door into an airlock at some infectious disease germ lab.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Writer and filmmaker Joseph Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parents’ living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Atticus Review, Matador Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where he is working on a feature-length play about a dystopic suburban road rally.

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J’adore My Door
by Karyl Carmignani

Solid and fearless, with varnish peeling like sunburnt skin.
Every push and pull blurts a micro-shriek across the threshold,
except when Santa Anas howl,
sucking moisture from every living thing, making us a bit mad,
and relaxing hinges, an intruder’s delight.
But lock tumblers jostle like cubes in a glass, and vow to keep us safe.

Screen door protects her stoic mate from sun and strangers.
Creates a veiled reality,
perfect for cats who pass the time
counting leaves crossing the porch,
or growl low and feral at passing ‘possums or toms looking for love,
as night falls hard on my newly quiet street.

There is a jangled ache outside in the absence of people.
This age of uncertainty, financial ruin, chills and fever
has tucked us in tight behind doors,
sturdy, hollow, painted, flimsy, raw, weeping.
We share this indoor life.
Separate and together.
It is a privilege
and a luxury to have a solid door to keep death at bay
and the cats inside, close.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Forgive the shaggy format of this piece. The door prompt has been on my To Write List for a couple weeks, and it didn’t bubble to the surface until the kitties were watching the leaves scuttle across the porch before a storm. I’m eternally grateful for their furry company during this trying time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karyl Carmignani is a science writer for San Diego Zoo Global who also dabbles in creative writing. You can read her nonfiction animal-centric articles here. One of her all-time favorites is about a fascinating and misunderstood bird, the ostrich. Read it and see them spinning on video here. She loves morning coffee (with a splash of milk), rainy afternoons (few and far between), a good joke, great books, her husband, her two cats Tina and Piper, and random, unending beauty in the world. While not a fan of this “house arrest,” she is confident that this, too, shall pass and we can get back to hugging friends, eating out, biking, hiking through parks, traveling near or far, and rejoicing in our fleeting existence with full and shining hearts.

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My Daughter Teaches Every Child She Knows to Love Her Cat
by Alice Morris

He was a half-grown stray regularly ripped to shreds
by the mangy pack of oversized ferals that had the run

of the old
beat-down neighborhood.

Early each morning he’d show up outside our cottage door —
crying, shaking, bleeding.

My three-year-old watched as I left him a little milk,
a bit of bread, a nip of cheese.

I’d tell my daughter stay back, explain
disease.

Eventually, she had to touch the copper-colored fur
on his back

and as though he knew he had found his home, his girl,
he never left a scratch.

We named him Penny because of his color, and because
it seemed his cat-world believed

he had no value.
But my child endlessly played with, talked about,

and drew pictures of our newfound Penny.
Soon, he appeared in other children’s family drawings.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: A picture of Penny found in my jewelry box after 18 years (2017). My daughter made this small cutout picture of Penny when she was about five years old. (She was very skilled with the scissors.) She used an index card for extra strength. (Photo by Alice Morris.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Lost and Found — I first thought of the diamond that I lost from a replacement wedding band, and recalled the dark hole left in its place, but this subject was suddenly eclipsed by a flood of images regarding, essentially, a refugee cat. The more I thought about how we found each other, it seemed that lost diamond kept getting smaller and smaller.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alice Morris
, a Minnesota native, earned her BS from Towson State University, and MS from Johns Hopkins. She comes to writing with a background in art — published in a West Virginia textbook and The New York Art Review. Her poetry appears or forthcoming in The Broadkill Review, a shared chapbook, themed poetry collections and anthologies — most recently, Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts by Les Femmes Folles Books. Her work is also published by Silver Birch Press, The Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, and Delaware Beach Life.

Author photo by Alice Morris.

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Curiosity
by Roslyn Ross

Lost that grey kitten,
eyes like stars and
fur in silken clouds
of love, damp-nosed
and curious, so very
curious –

Found, that grey kitten,
eyes clouded, fur limp,
body curled in death,
sighing from the final
bite of the snake, as it
defended its babies
from curiosity

IMAGE: “A Kind of Cat” by Paul Klee (1937).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We live on a farm and in summer, the brown snakes are common and kittens are as ever, much too curious. We have lost three kittens in the past two years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roslyn Ross has been writing poetry since she was a child. She was born in Australia and has lived around the world for three decades, but is now settled in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia.

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Sammy
by Neil Creighton

The Indian Pacific from Perth
has arrived on Platform 2.

We poured from the train.
The platform surged with people.
Baggage handlers scurried around.
Grey day. Spiteful rain. Cold wind.

Better check on your dog, son.

Sammy was in a dog-cage in the baggage car.
He was eight. I was sixteen.
His puppy self had lain in my arms.
Together we paddled the glittering lake,
he in the front, alert, mouth open, excited.
He loped alongside my bicycle.
He bounded comically through high grass.
He lay at my feet in the evening.
He was my brother and my friend.

There’s a dog loose on the tracks.

I barely heard that announcement
as I wandered down to the baggage car.
I’d checked on him on each stop.
Now I’d take him to our new home.

I’ve come for my dog.

Jeez, mate, sorry, he’s gone,
We tried to get him out of his cage.
He held back and slipped his collar
and he bolted.

I ran through the crowd, searching the tracks,
calling and whistling again and again.
No dog loped up happily to lick my hand.

Finally I stopped.
He was gone,
3,400 kilometres from his home,
running in a strange city
full of noise and trams and cars and trains,
increasingly desperate, hungry, alone.

The day was cloudy, cold and wet.
I reached for my sunglasses
To hide my grief, though tears flowed freely.

Sammy, my dear friend,
don’t run too far.
Find someone to take you in.
Let them love you like I do.

In a sad huddle, my family waited.
I walked past them towards the platform steps.
They seemed so very far away.

IMAGE: “Boy with a Dog” by Pablo Picasso (1905).

Creighton for Sammy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have always loved dogs, and although my father was in the Royal Australian Air Force and we led a gypsy life, criss-crossing the Australian continent, my dog always came with us. My poem recounts what happened when we travelled from Perth to Melbourne one cold, wet day.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My dogs, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Miss Eliza Bennet (Darcy and Lizzie).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Neil Creighton is an Australian poet whose work as a teacher of English and Drama brought him into close contact with thousands of young lives, most happy and triumphant but too many tragically filled with neglect. It made him intensely aware of how opportunity is so unequally proportioned and his work often reflects strong interest in social justice. His recent publications include Poetry Quarterly, Autumn Sky Daily, Praxis mag online,  Rat’s Ass Review, and Verse-Virtual, where he is a contributing editor. He blogs at windofflowers.blogspot.com.au.