J.T. Whitehead

A Nature Poetry Primer : for my sons

-after reading Guillaume Apollinaire.

“You can never say animals are stupid. You can only say it about other people.”
– Daniel , age 5.

He would butt your head when you fight.
He’s just being antlered.

His hairy belly is full & he is tall & his back is hairy, too.
He’s just a bear.

We sidle up to you . . . we come sideways . . . easy prey.
How you catch crabs.

He bares his teeth whenever he eats.
He deserves the dogfood.

Our heads inside are full of life, & outside easily broken.
We are all of us eggs, yet.

Slender, nuzzling, feeding, quiet, listening, ever alert, & attentive,
the fawn.

A speck of dust in the universe, still our biting leaves the itch,
as pestering as the gnat.

We daily sing of war, it’s our bloodlust. We laugh when old men cry.
We are such hyenas.

A mass of chemicals dropped from the air can kill us,
as if we were not insects.
A footnote to hunters, like packs of wild dogs roaming the night,
we are jackals.
Unable to quit . . . eucalyptus leaves or anything else,
we enter the world of Koala.

We could benefit from your work-sweat, or know that you bleed,
like capitalists, or leeches.

We can move atomically freely among ourselves without separation,
like liquid.

Imagine my molarity or imagine me hairy without language, extinct,
one mammoth mastodon.

It is a dark blanket our special being lays over us all so late,
our Night.

We are as soiled & as showy as a major political party convention,
we might as well be orchids.

It seems our memories may exceed our minds.
Parrots can seem like ditto signs.

A President’s death needs no gun. Apparently one animal does,
when hunting Quail.

He’s just thinking about tail, tonight.
We’ll not use the other name. Say he’s a rooster.

I shine, but I could be dead to you, as far apart as we are.
Read this now – you are a star.

Even great poets do not know who created my fearful symmetry.
But the tyger knows what the tigeris.
Scientists & logicians agree: we only exist in children’s dreams.
But we are, and we are unicorns.
A photo could frame our circles, on a tumbling ghost town paper,
when we are vultures.

Thick skinned, mustachioed, fat fanged, formally tusked,
at the reception, tuxed, I am a walrus.

Having claimed as my own the home of the tribes of South Africa,
by manners, I should introduce myself – wildebeest.

We’d lap our own tongues’ blood from the blades of knives, for living,
being wolves.

A number, statistic, axis, chromosome, generation, or a big unknown,
hardly natural the illiterate sign us: X.

Shaggy stock in life, we stare back, patient as pre-history, still here . . .
Yak, Yak, Yak!
How many of us do you recognize here?
After all this is our zoo.

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