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ANIMALS


A visitor once to Loch Ness
Met the monster, who left him a mess;
      They returned his entrails
      By the regular mails
And the rest of the stuff by express.
--Anonymous

The chimpanzee
Is a most embarrassing animal to see,
For he always indulges in sex
When the visitor least expects.
--Muriel Sly

AT THE AQUARIUM
Max Eastman (1883-1969)
SERENE the silver fishes glide,
Stern-lipped, and pale, and wonder-eyed!
As through the aged deeps of ocean,
They glide with wan and wavy motion!
They have no pathway where they go,
They flow like water to and fro.
They watch with never winking eyes,
They watch with staring, cold surprise,
The level people in the air,
The people peering, peering there:
Who wander also to and fro,
And know not why or where they go,
Yet have a wonder in their eyes,
Sometimes a pale and cold surprise.

THE BIG BABOON
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)
From: The Bad Child's Book of Beasts

The Big Baboon is found upon
The plains of Cariboo:
He goes about with nothing on
(A shocking thing to do).

But if he dressed up respectably
And let his whiskers grow,
How like this Big Baboon would be
To Mister So-and-so!

BUGS
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Some insects feed on rosebuds
And others feed on carrion.
Between them they devour the earth.
Bugs are totalitarian.

CAT IN AN EMPTY APARTMENT
Wislawa Szymborska (1923-)
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Maria Trzeciak

Die—you can't do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do
in an empty apartment?
Climb the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here,
but nothing is the same.
Nothing has been moved,
but there's more space.
And at nighttime no lamps are lit.

Footsteps on the staircase,
but they're new ones.
The hand that puts fish on the saucer
has changed, too.

Something doesn't start
at its usual time.
Something doesn't happen
as it should.
Someone was always, always here,
then suddenly disappeared
and stubbornly stays disappeared.

Every closet has been examined.
Every shelf has been explored.
Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.
A commandment was even broken,
papers scattered everywhere.
What remains to be done.
Just sleep and wait.

Just wait till he turns up,
just let him show his face.
Will he ever get a lesson
on what not to do to a cat.
Sidle toward him
as if unwilling
and ever so slow
on visibly offended paws,
and no leaps or squeals at least to start.

COYOTE
Bret Harte (1836-1902)
Blown out of the prairie in twilight and dew,
Half bold and half timid, yet lazy all through;
Loath ever to leave, and yet fearful to stay,
He limps in the clearing, an outcast in gray.
A shade on the stubble, a ghost by the wall,
Now leaping, now limping, now risking a fall,
Lop-eared and large-jointed, but ever alway
A thoroughly vagabond outcast in gray.
Here, Carlo, old fellow,--he's one of your kind,--
Go, seek him, and bring him in out of the wind.
What! snarling, my Carlo! So even dogs may
Deny their own kin in the outcast in gray.
Well, take what you will--though it be on the sly,
Marauding or begging,--I shall not ask why,
But will call it a dole, just to help on his way
A four-footed friar in orders of gray!

DHARMA
Billy Collins (1941-)
The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—-
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she
would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

HORSES
Richard Armour (1906-1989)
They head the list
      Of bad to bet on
But I insist
      They're worse to get on.

I HAD A HIPPOPOTAMUS
Patrick Barrington (1908-1990)
I had a Hippopotamus, I kept him in a shed
And fed him upon vitamins and vegetable bread
I made him my companion on many cheery walks
And had his portrait done by a celebrity in chalk

His charming eccentricities were known on every side
The creatures' popularity was wonderfully wide
He frolocked with the Rector in a dozen friendly tussles
Who could not but remark on his hippopotamuscles

If he should be affected by depression or the dumps
By hippopotameasles or the hippopotamumps
I never knew a particle of peace 'till it was plain
He was hippopotamasticating properly again

I had a Hippopotamus, I loved him as a friend
But beautiful relationships are bound to have an end
Time takes alas! our joys from us and rids us of our blisses
My hippopotamus turned out to be a hippopotamisses

My house keeper regarded him with jaundice in her eye
She did not want a colony of hippotami
She borrowed a machine gun from from her soldier nephew, Percy
And showed my hippopotamus no hippopotamercy

My house now lacks that glamour that the charming creature gave
The garage where I kept him is now as silent as the grave
No longer he displays among the motor tyres and spanners
His hippopomastery of hippopotamanners

No longer now he gambles in the orchards in the spring
No longer do I lead him through the village on a string
No longer in the morning does the neighbourhood rejoice
To his hippopotamusically-meditated voice

I had a hippopotamus but nothing upon earth
Is constant in its happines or lasting in its mirth
No joy that life can give me can be strong enough to smother
My sorrow for that might-have-been-a-hippopota-mother

INSCRIPTION FOR A FLY SWATTER
Richard Armour (1906-89)
The hand is quicker than the eye is,
But somewhat slower than the fly is.

LONE DOG
Irene Rutherford McLeod (1891-)
I'm a lean dog, a keen dog, a wild dog, and lone;
I'm a rough dog, a tough dog, hunting, hunting on my own;
I'm a bad dog, a mad dog, teasing silly sheep;
I love to sit and bay the moon, to keep fat souls from sleep.

I'll never be a lap dog, licking dirty feet,
A sleek dog, a meek dog, cringing for my meat,
Not for me the fireside, the well-filled plate,
But shut door, and sharp stone, and cuff and kick, and hate.

Not for me the other dogs, running by my side,
Some have run a short while, but none of them would bide.
Oh, mine is still the lone trail, the hard trail, the best,
Wide wind, and wild stars, and hunger of the quest!

MANTIS
David McCord (1897-1997)
The praying mantis doesn't pray:
He simply likes to pose that way.
The sect which he's an insect in
Leads with the left and not the chin.

MORT AUX CHATS
Peter Porter
There will be no more cats.
Cats spread infection,
Cats pollute the air,
Cats consume seven times
their own weight in food a week,
Cats were worshipped in
decadent societies (Egypt
and Ancient Rome); the Greeks
had no use for cats. Cats
sit down to pee (our scientists
have proved it). The copulation
of cats is harrowing; they
are unbearably fond of the moon.
Perhaps they are all right in
their own country but their
traditions are alien to ours.
Cats smell, they can't help it,
you notice it going upstairs.
Cats watch too much television,
they can sleep through storms,
they stabbed us in the back
last time. There have never been
any great artists who were cats.
They don't deserve a capital C
except at the beginning of a sentence.
I blame my headaches and my
plants dying on cats.
Our district is full of them,
property values are falling.
When I dream of God I see
a Massacre of Cats. Why
should they insist on their own
language and religion, who
needs to purr to make his point?
Death to all cats! The Rule
of Dogs shall last a thousand years!

MOTHER DOESN'T WANT A DOG
Judith Viorst (1931--)
Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they smell,
And never sit when you say sit,
Or even when you yell.
And when you come home late at night
And there is ice and snow,
You have to go back out because
The dumb dog has to go.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they shed,
And always let the strangers in
And bark at friends instead,
And do disgraceful things on rugs,
And track mud on the floor,
And flop upon your bed at night
And snore their doggy snore.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
She's making a mistake.
Because, more than a dog, I think
She will not want this snake.

ON A CLERGYMAN'S HORSE BITING HIM
Anonymous
The stud bit his master;
How came this to pass?
He heard the good pastor
Say "All flesh is grass."

ON A NIGHT OF SNOW
Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893–1986)
Cat, if you go outdoors, you must walk in the snow.
You will come back with little white shoes on your feet,
little white shoes of snow that have heels of sleet.
Stay by the fire, my Cat. Lie still, do not go.
See how the flames are leaping and hissing low,
I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite,
so white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet--
stay with me, Cat. Outdoors the wild winds blow.

Outdoors the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark is the night,
strange voices cry in the trees, intoning strange lore,
and more than cats move, lit by our eyes green light,
on silent feet where the meadow grasses hang hoar--
Mistress, there are portents abroad of magic and might,
and things that are yet to be done. Open the door!

THE ANT
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
The ant has made himself illustrious
Through constant industry industrious,
So what?
Would you be calm and placid
If you were full of formic acid?

THE COBRA
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
This creature fills its mouth with venom
And walks upon its duodenum.
He who attempts to tease the cobra
Is soon a sadder he, and sobra.

A CONSERVATIVE
Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman [1860-1935]
The garden beds I wandered by
One bright and cheerful morn,
When I found a new-fledged butterfly,
A-sitting on a thorn,
A black and crimson butterfly,
All doleful and forlorn. I thought that life could have no sting
To infant butterflies,
So I gazed on this unhappy thing
With wonder and surprise,
While sadly with his waving wing
He wiped his weeping eyes. Said I, "What can the matter be?
Why weepest thou so sore?
With garden fair and sunlight free
And flowers in goodly store:" --
But he only turned away from me
And burst into a roar. Cried he, "My legs are thin and few
Where once I had a swarm!
Soft fuzzy fur--a joy to view--
Once kept my body warm,
Before these flapping wing-things grew,
To hamper and deform!" At that outrageous bug I shot
The fury of mine eye;
Said I, in scorn all burning hot,
In rage and anger high,
"You ignominious idiot!
Those wings are made to fly! 'I do not want to fly," said he,
"I only want to squirm!"
And he drooped his wings dejectedly,
But still his voice was firm:
"I do not want to be a fly!
I want to be a worm!" O yesterday of unknown lack!
To-day of unknown bliss!
I left my fool in red and black,
The last I saw was this, --
The creature madly climbing back
Into his chrysalis.

THE CUCKOO
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Cuckoos lead Bohemian lives,
They fail as husbands and as wives,
Therefore they cynically disparage
Everybody else's marriage.

THE DIPLOMATIC PLATYPUS
Patrick Barrington (1908-1990)
I had a duck-billed platypus when I was up at Trinity,
With whom I soon discovered a remarkable affinity.
He used to live in lodgings with myself and Arthur Purvis,
And we all went up together for the Diplomatic Service.
I had a certain confidence, I own, in his ability,
He mastered all the subjects with remarkable facility;
And Purvis, though more dubious, agreed that he was clever,
But no one else imagined he had any chance whatever.

I failed to pass the interview, the board with wry grimaces
Took exception to my boots and then objected to my braces,
And Purvis too was failed by an intolerant examiner
Who said he had his doubts as to his sock-suspender's stamina.
Our summary rejection, though we took it with urbanity
Was naturally wounding in some measure to our vanity;
The bitterness of failure was considerably mollified,
However, by the ease with which our platypus had qualified.

The wisdom of the choice, it soon appeared, was undeniable;
There never was a diplomat more thoroughly reliable.
The creature never acted with undue precipitation O,
But gave to every question his mature consideration O.
He never made rash statements his enemies might hold him to,
He never stated anything, for no one ever told him to,
And soon he was appointed, so correct was his behaviour,
Our Minister (without Portfolio) to Trans-Moravia.

My friend was loved and honoured from the Andes to Esthonia,
He soon achieved a pact between Peru and Patagonia,
He never vexed the Russians nor offended the Rumanians,
He pacified the Letts and yet appeased the Lithuanians,
Won approval from his masters down in Downing Street so wholly, O,
He was soon to be rewarded with the grant of a Portfolio,
When on the Anniversary of Greek Emancipation,
Alas! He laid an egg in the Bulgarian Legation.

This untoward occurrence caused unheard-of repercussions,
Giving rise to epidemics of sword-clanking in the Prussians.
The Poles began to threaten, and the Finns began to flap at him,
Directing all the blame for this unfortunate mishap at him;
While the Swedes withdrew entirely from the Anglo-Saxon dailies
The right of photographing the Aurora Borealis,
And, all efforts at rapprochement in the meantime proving barren,
The Japanese in self-defence annexed the Isle of Arran.

My platypus, once thought to be more cautious and more tentative
Than any other living diplomatic representative,
Was now a sort of warning to all diplomatic students
Of the risks attached to negligence, the perils of imprudence,
Beset and persecuted by the forces of reaction, O,
He reaped the consequences of his ill-considered action, O,
And, branded in the Honours List as 'Platypus, Dame Vera',
Retired, a lonely figure, to lay eggs in Bordighera.

THE DONKEY
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
When fishes flew and forests walked,
      And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood,
      Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
      And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
      Of all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
      Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
      I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
      One far fierce hour and sweet;
There was a shout about my ears,
      And palms before my feet.

THE ELEPHANT, or THE FORCE OF HABIT
A.E. Housman (1859–1936)
A tail behind, a trunk in front,
Complete the usual elephant.
The tail in front, the trunk behind
Is what you very seldom find.

If you for specimens should hunt
With trunks behind and tails in front,
The hunt would occupy you long;
The force of habit is so strong.

THE FLY
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.

THE GOAT
Roland Young
The Billy goat's a handsome gent
But has a most far-reaching scent.
The Nanny goat is quite a belle.
Let's hope she has no sense of smell.

THE GREAT AUK'S GHOST
Ralph Hodgson (1871-1962)
The Great Auk's ghost rose on one leg,
      Sighed thrice, and three times winket,
And turned and poached a phantom egg,
      And muttered, "I'm extinct."

THE LESSER LYNX
E.V. Rieu

The laughter of the Lesser Lynx
      Is often insincere:
It pays to be polite, he thinks,
      If Royalty is near.

So when the Lion steals his food
      Or kicks him from behind,
He smiles, of course-but, oh, the rude
      Remarks that cross his mind!

THE LION
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Oh, weep for Mr. and Mrs. Bryan!
He was eaten by a lion;
Following which, the lion's lioness
Up and swallowed Bryan's Bryaness.

THE OCTOPUS
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Tell me, O Octopus, I begs,
Is those things arms, or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.

THE OYSTER
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
The oyster's a
Confusing suitor;
It's masc., and fem.,
And even neuter.
But whether husband,
Pal, or wife,
It leads a soothing
Sort of life.
I'd like to be
An oyster, say,
In August, June,
July, or May.

PARKINSON AND THE OCTOPUS
Norma Farber (1909-1984)
'Work extends so as the fill the time available for its completion...there need be little or no relationship between the work to be done and the size of the staff to which it may be assigned.'-Parkinson's Law

Parkinson broached the octopus,
To bring him into line.
"Increase like the rest of us,"
He urged. "Consider nine."

The creature spoke from gloom and glint:
"These suckers seem enough
To organize my sort of stint
And staff my kind of stuff."

Parkinson said, "Expand, expand."
The mollusk did not flinch.
He took both gent and job in hand.
Eight did it, in a pinch.

PITY THE POOR SPIDER
Don Marquis (1878 - 1937)
i have just been reading
an advertisement of a certain
roach exterminator
the human race little knows
all the sadness it
causes in the insect world
i remember some weeks ago
meeting a middle aged spider
she was weeping
what is the trouble i asked
her it is these cursed
fly swatters she replied
they kill of all the flies
and my family and i are starving
to death it struck me as
so pathetic that i made
a little song about it
as follows to wit

twas an elderly mother spider
grown gaunt and fierce and gray
with her little ones crouched beside her
who wept as she sang this lay

curses on these here swatters
what kills off all the flies
for me and my little daughters
unless we eats we dies

swattin and swattin and swattin
tis little else you hear
and we ll soon be dead and forgotten
with the cost of living so dear

my husband he up and left me
lured off by a centipede
and he says as he bereft me
tis wrong but i ll get a feed

and me a working and working
scouring the streets for food
faithful and never shirking
doing the best i could

curses on these here swatters
what kills off all the flies
me and my poor little daughters
unless we eats we dies

only a withered spider
feeble and worn and old
and this is what
you do when you swat
you swatters cruel and cold

i will admit that some
of the insects do not lead
noble lives but is every
man s hand to be against them
yours for less justice
and more charity

archy

TALKING TURKEYS!
Benjamin Zephaniah
From: Talking Turkeys (1995)

Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos' turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don't eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I'm on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up an genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.

Turkeys just wanna play reggae
Turkeys just wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
'I cannot wait for de chop',
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas TV,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.

I once knew a turkey called........ Turkey
He said "Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to christmas trees?",
I said "I am not too sure turkey
But it's nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash'.

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey'll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends 'FOR LIFE'.

THE PENGUIN
Oliver Herford (1863-1935)
The Pen-guin sits up-on the shore
And loves the lit-tle fish to bore;
He has one en-er-vat-ing joke
That would a very Saint pro-voke:
"The Pen-guin's might-i-er than the Sword-fish";
He tells this dai-ly to the bored fish,
Un-til they are so weak, they float
With-out re-sis-tance down his throat.

THE PIG
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
The pig, if I am not mistaken,
Supplies us sausage, ham and bacon.
Let others say his heart is big-
I call it stupid of the pig.

THE PURIST
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist.
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."

THE RABBIT
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Here is a verse about rabbits
That doesn't mention their habits.

THE RHINOCEROS
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
The rhino is homely beast,
For human eyes he's not a feast.
But you and I will never know
Why nature chose to make him so.
Farewell, farewell, you old rhinoceros;
I'll stare at something less prepoceros.

THE SMILE OF THE WALRUS
Oliver Herford (1863-1935)
The Smile of the Walrus is wild and distraught,
      And tinged with pale purples and greens,
Like the Smile of a Thinker who thinks a Great Thought
      And isn't quite sure what it means.

THE TERMITE
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Some primal termite knocked on wood
      And tasted it, and found it good.
And that is why your cousin May
      Fell through the parlor floor today.

THE TIGER
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)
From: The Bad Child's Book of Beasts
The tiger, on the other hand,
Is kittenish and mild,
And makes a pretty playfellow
For any little child.
And mothers of large families
(Who claim to common sense)
Will find a tiger well repays
The trouble and expense.

TRIOLET
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
I wish I were a jelly fish
That cannot fall downstairs;
Of all the things I wish to wish
I wish I were a jellyfish
That hasn't any cares
And doesn't even have to wish
'I wish I were a jellyfish
That cannot fall downstairs.'

UNSATISFIED YEARNING
R.K. Munkittrick (1853-1911)
Down in the silent hallway,
      Scampers the dog about,
And whines, and barks, and scratches,
      In order to get out.

Once in the glittering starlight
      He straightaway doth begin
To set up a doleful howling
      In order to get in.

WALKING THE DOG
from "Sentences" (1980)

Howard Nemerov (1920-1991)
Two universes mosey down the street
Connected by love and a leash and nothing else.
Mostly I look at lamplight through the leaves
While he mooches along with tail up and snout down,
Getting a secret knowledge through the nose
Almost entirely hidden from my sight.

We stand while he's enraptured by a bush
Till I can't stand our standing any more
And haul him off; for our relationship
Is patience balancing to this side tug
And that side drag; a pair of symbionts
Contented not to think each other's thoughts.

What else we have in common's what he taught,
Our interest in shit. We know its every state
From steaming fresh through stink to nature's way
Of sluicing it downstreet dissolved in rain
Or drying it to dust that blows away.
We move along the street inspecting shit.

His sense of it is keener far than mine,
And only when he finds the place precise
He signifies by sniffing urgently
And circles thrice about, and squats, and shits,
Whereon we both with dignity walk home
And just to show who's master I write the poem.

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