Archives for posts with tag: animals

Creature Comforts
by Betsy Mars

If I could talk to the animals
I’d gather creatures all around me;
carrying them catlike in my mouth
softly communicating
through touch, telepathy, or teeth—

Or birdlike, feather my arms with amethyst
and join the formation with wings,
strung out v-shaped.
We’d band together safely,
each in our proper place, flying but not in flight.

I’d blow the top off my head and spout
my presence high into the air, grow gills
and breathe underwater … and slowly …
I’d practice bubble communication
and learn to whistle beyond human earshot.

On soft cat feet, my telltale tail swishing
and back arched, I’d raise my hackles
to warn predators and rivals
to keep their distance.
In a low growl, my throat would rumble my displeasure.

In a dog-eat-dog ass-sniffing world
my every inhale would be endlessly informative,
odors wafting through my synapses
triggering unarticulated volumes
received in a few twitches of a nose.

If I could talk to the animals
I could rest easy knowing that the Great Pink Sea Snail
would not be a-salted and the Pushmi-pullyu,
like me, would finally find its direction.
My kingdom would have no bounds.

PHOTO: Author at a young age in the habit of practicing her communication skills on a rabbit.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have always been drawn to animals. I think “Let sleeping dogs lie” was one of the first idioms I learned, except that my parents meant it literally as I was always approaching strange dogs. My favorite TV shows were Lassie, Flipper, and Mr. Ed. I was entranced by Doctor Doolittle despite what a misogynist Rex Harrison turned out to be. I was very nearsighted and was convinced I would one day go blind. The only consolation was that I would qualify for a seeing-eye dog. I developed a passion for Labrador Retrievers, and that was in fact the first dog I got as an adult. I have never gotten over my suspicion that I have a special bond with animals and that they secretly understand what I am saying and just choose to ignore it (sometimes). I am obsessed with the videos of interspecies friendships and believe the world would be a happier place if we could just be more like the animals.

Mars (2)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a Connecticut-born, mostly Southern California raised poet, mother, and animal lover with a severe case of travel fever. Having spent part of her childhood abroad, she has always had an interest in language and its nuances. Her work has been published in two editions of A Poet is a Poet No Matter How Tall, Then & Now (Sadie Press), and by Silver Birch Press.

PHOTO: Author in a post-ride conference with her trusty steed.

Speaking Cat
by Neha Srivastava

Speaking Cat isn’t half as hard
As speaking Human. There is
The screaming for one, each scream sapping precious energy.
I’ve learned to relax, to lie awake but asleep
My breath pulled upward by the blades of the fan.
I have learned to purr, to comfort myself
When things are broken.
I am dangerously aware,
A careless mistake would have cost me all
If not for the fact
That I speak Cat.
When I speak Cat, the world speeds up
But I slow down,
There is time between breaths
Time that careless humans fritter away in careless speech.
There is time between breaths
To not care for what has been.
When I speak Cat I dream in miaows
A single note awaiting a change in beat.
I awaken and stretch languorously,
Not having been plagued by dreams
Of what has and has not been.
I pad across the cool floor
And look out the window
At the trees and the birds and the whole world
All of it right outside my window.
There are no lands far away
Nowhere I would rather be
I am not plagued by thoughts
Of what can and cannot be.
I am dangerously aware
It would be easy to lose myself
If not for the fact
That I speak Cat.

IMAGE: “Cat and Bird” by Paul Klee (1928).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this thinking how difficult it is for human beings to live in the moment.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Neha Srivastava is a philosophy major with an MBA in Finance, who spent eight years working for multinational corporations. In 2015, she finally worked up the courage to quit her job as a market data manager and report editor to take up writing full time. She now spends her days looking out at the world from her balcony and typing away at her laptop, watched over by her aging cats, Hobbes and Tequila.

woman shearing a sheep
Shearing a Sheep
by Maggie Mackay

It’s late June, no rain forecast today.
A heat haze rises over Ballantrae Bay
misting the watercolour wash of sea and sky.
By the pen I flip the Cheviot between my legs,
prop her shoulders between my knees.
Next I steady the weight as her legs push,
then point stock still into the air, her belly exposed.
Sweat begins to drip into my eyes, salty and blinding.
Dad whispers instructions, don’t nick, mind the teats.
I balance his wrought-iron shears in my right hand,
pushing the left hard flat against her smoothed skin.
She bleats in protest. Fleece piles around her shape
like a cloak unwinding
into a creamy white “wool in the grease” skin.

IMAGE: “A woman shearing a sheep” from a book of hours by Jehan de Luc (1524). (Source:

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I enjoy researching my family roots and found that three generations back, on my father’s side, is the shepherding tradition undertaken on farms in Dumfries and Galloway [Scotland]. This brought about the idea of researching the new skill of shearing, drawing a parent and youngster together in the poem, one learning the art from the master.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maggie Mackay is a brave-hearted Scot and a final year MA Poetry student at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has work in various print and online publications, including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Prole, The Interpreter’s House,  Indigo Dreams Publishing and Three Drops Press.

deer crossing
Rules of the Road
by N. Hess

It’s dark out.

It might rain.

There are deer on the road.

Every time I sat in the driver’s seat, my mother’s voice echoed in my brain. Each time I clicked the seat belt shut, her old litany of excuses snapped in place, too. Reasons why it wouldn’t be safe for me to drive. Good heavens, there are deer on that road! (Which would never just cause a dent in the car—always imminent death, of course.)

Welcome to Pennsylvania, where there are deer everywhere, every night. Yet most people go about their business, perhaps driving a little more cautiously in areas where deer are known to congregate, but driving nonetheless.

But not me. I stayed “safe” by not driving. Or if I really had to go somewhere, my mother drove me. (Clearly, she was the magical accident repellent that would keep me unharmed.)

I didn’t know then that it wasn’t about safety or my driving skills—it was about control. All I knew was that in high school and college, I was allowed to drive a grand total of 11 times. When I moved away after graduation, I was equal parts longing and terrified to drive myself anywhere.

Driving to the grocery store in my new town, I had to give myself pep talks. Talk myself out of thinking I was going to die every time I drove somewhere. Remind myself that if I could just get to the supermarket, I’d be rewarded with mac and cheese.

Those two miles each way to the store felt like an eternity for over a year. But each journey yielded two miles’ more experience than before. It adds up over time, and it gave me a voice. A voice that’s louder than hers.

To this day, I’ve never hit a deer.

PHOTO: “Deer crossing” by adrenalinpura, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Stephen King once said, “The only requirement [to be a writer]…is the ability to remember every scar.” My driving-related scars inspired this story. Although those wounds don’t cut as deeply these days, they still produce little twinges and pinches sometimes when I’m stuck in a traffic jam or driving down a lonely road at night. I keep telling myself that’s what healing feels like.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: N. Hess writes twisted fiction. She lurks in the Philadelphia suburbs and is inspired by all things dark and mysterious.

AUTHOR PHOTO: N. Hess, daydreaming about a future in which self-driving cars will be the norm.

Boy and wooden rocking horse
Scene from a country town
by Mantz Yorke

Drawn up at the kerb, the horse
bent down:
my fair hair must have been attractive,
like hay.
I shied away

and have kept my distance from horses
ever since.

Photo by Taborsky

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was about three years old in a country town in England where horse-drawn wagons were still being used for local deliveries. This perhaps explains why I’ve never taken to riding.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England.  His poems have appeared inButcher’s DogDactylDawntreaderLunar PoetryPopshotProleRevival and The Brain of Forgetting magazines, in e-magazines and in anthologies in the U.K., Ireland, and the U.S.

For me it was the trees
by Michael Mark

The ones stripped to their sap
by rhinos needing to scratch an itch,
dismembered by elephants
marking their existence,
left leafless by the insane baboons.

Broken and more beautiful,
they stood in defiance of death,
undeniably dead.

Even more than the too-close nightly roars
that shook our tent and made me leak pee,
then worry until light
that whatever predators were out there
would pick up the scent
and track it to us,

beyond the three giraffes
in a solemn row,
watching the jackals, hyenas and
cloud of vultures eating
the remains of their fallen elder,

it was the trees
that impressed me most
on our summer vacation.

Monuments to nothing I can name.
Were they even trees anymore?

From the crowded plane home,
I saw the skeleton sculptures
waving their tangled arms, frail,
skinless fingers clawing at the vastness
and me, not to forget.

In my bed, haunted.

I should have gotten out of the jeep.
I should have walked over to one of them
and sat down like Buddha.

© Michael Mark

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: This is a photo of my wife, Lois, and myself and one of the trees I wrote about on our photo-only safari in South Africa. Lois has a blog and has written about her travels, this trip included, at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was begun on the flight back home from our trip to Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long-distance walker. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Lost Coast Review, Rattle, Ray’s Road Review, Spillway, Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, and other nice places. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

by Merlene Fawdry

No koalas here in the place of mine,
no spot-tailed quoll or common wambenger
remain, behind the fringe
of spindle-limbed eucalypts
and stunted blackwood
that fan the roadside,
a veil to the scene beyond,
where matchsticks splinter hills of waste.
A different litter remains
on these wombat hills,
sun-scorched and aglow
in lethal illumination,
gone are the eco-creatures
that lived in the realm of shadow,
the cracks and crevices of their habitat
expunged by the bulldozer’s blade.

The last rufous and golden whistlers,
scarlet robin and masked owl have flown
wings dipped in thermal salute,
a memory flight of what used to be
before the machines came, to
honour the fallen, the displaced,
the diminishing species,
Satinwood and Wombat Bossiaea
consigned as memories on a botanist’s page.

No koalas here, where mighty gums once stood
gone in a eucalypt smudge,
a misty wraith that shares my grief
at the devastation before me,
where spindle-limbed eucalypts
and stunted blackwood
that fan the roadside, fail to hide
the open wounds of loss.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Wombat Forest is reputed to be named after the Wombat township now known as Daylesford, the spa capital of Victoria [Australia]. The forest has been logged since the gold rush era of the mid 1800s and ongoing forestry practice has thinned the blackwood and mighty eucalypts of the area. The subsequent disappearance of the understorey of climbers, native herbs, grasses, rushes, sedges, and aquatics has endangered the swampy riparian shrubland, woodland, and streambank ecosystems. This is the place of my belonging, and the inspiration for this poem came when I was driving along the Ballan/Daylesford Road. Looking beyond the deception of trees that lined the road to the blank hills beyond, I felt extreme anger and sadness, as if part of me had been lost to the bulldozer’s blade.

IMAGE: “Confused Koala Discovers His Home Has Been Cut Down.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merlene Fawdry is a writer and poet, author of five books and several books of poetry. She lives in a small town in rural Australia,where she enjoys the diversity of writing poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, and provides an editing, manuscript preparation, and writer mentoring service. She has a strong interest in social justice and the environment and reflects in much of her writing. She maintains a blog @Merlene Fawdry and welcomes comments on her posts.

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

translated into a limerick by Alfred H. Marks

There once was a curious frog
Who sat by a pond on a log
And, to see what resulted,
In the pond catapulted
With a water-noise heard round the bog.

IMAGE:  “Basho’s frog haiku print” available at

by Edward Lear

Said the Duck to the Kangaroo,
‘Good gracious! how you hop!
Over the fields and the water too,
As if you never would stop!
My life is a bore in this nasty pond,
And I long to go out in the world beyond!
I wish I could hop like you!’
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.

‘Please give me a ride on your back!’
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.
‘I would sit quite still, and say nothing but “Quack,”
The whole of the long day through!
And we’d go to the Dee, and the Jelly Bo Lee,
Over the land, and over the sea;—
Please take me a ride! O do!’
Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.

Said the Kangaroo to the Duck,
‘This requires some little reflection;
Perhaps on the whole it might bring me luck,
And there seems but one objection,
Which is, if you’ll let me speak so bold,
Your feet are unpleasantly wet and cold,
And would probably give me the roo-
Matiz!’ said the Kangaroo.

Said the Duck, ‘As I sate on the rocks,
I have thought over that completely,
And I bought four pairs of worsted socks
Which fit my web-feet neatly.
And to keep out the cold I’ve bought a cloak,
And every day a cigar I’ll smoke,
All to follow my own dear true
Love of a Kangaroo!’

Said the Kangaroo, ‘I’m ready!
All in the moonlight pale;
But to balance me well, dear Duck, sit steady!
And quite at the end of my tail!’
So away they went with a hop and a bound,
And they hopped the whole world three times round;
And who so happy,—O who,
As the Duck and the Kangaroo?

SOURCE: Lear’s Nonsense Drolleries (1889), available free at

DRAWING: “Duck and Kangaroo” by William Foster from original text.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edward Lear (1812–1888) was an English artist, illustrator, author and poet, and is known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose and especially his limericks, a form he popularized. His principal areas of work as an artist were as a draughtsman employed to illustrate birds and animals, making colored drawings during his journeys, and as an illustrator of Alfred Tennyson’s poems. As an author, he is known principally for his popular nonsense works, which use real and invented English words. His most famous poem is “The Owl and the Pussycat.”