Thursday, January 15, 2009

Just Hum a Few Bars?

Yes, I take requests. Lemming put in an "official request" for an animal poem. Thing is, she didn't say why, or what kind of animal poem she'd like.

My first response was to give her Ogden Nash's "The Panther" in the comments. My second response is to give her Woodchucks by Maxine Kumin, because it's the second poem that comes to my mind when someone says animal poem. But there are lots of others, most of which use animals metaphorically (like The Heavy Bear That Goes With Me). It crossed my mind that Lemming might want a poem to share with her two little girls, but what I thought of was Harry Graham's poem about John and the shark, from Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes (which you can read on Google Books if you type in the title, but I can't for the life of me make a link to it) and Shel Silverstein's poem Feeding Time:
Oh alligator, palligator, get up out of bed.
It's breakfast time and I can't find
Our keeper Mister Fred.
He smokes a pipe and wears a little
Derby on his head,
And he was 'sposed to meet me here
To help to get you fed.
Maybe it's just the contrariness that winter brings out in me, but Woodchucks is not a soft and cuddly animal poem, either. I have my animals gathered close around me on this frigid winter day (children too, since it's a snow day), but there's no use trying to find a poem about how soft the bunny's fur is or what a cat's face looks like when you open door after door and still fail to reveal the door into summer. So here is a poem about woodchucks:

Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.

Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling
to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the littlest woodchuck's face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Then minutes later I dropped the mother. She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next. O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There's one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form. I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they'd consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.

Don't you just love the use of the word "Nazi" in that last line? As I've echoed before, "I hate those guys." And I just saw a preview for a (real) movie about Nazi zombies.

So. Any more requests?


paj said...

We have a ground hog (woodchuck) in our back yard. When the pest-control guy came to help us with our "squirrel problem," he indicated that he'd be happy to come back in the spring and rid us of the ground hog, which evidently is sleeping away the winter in a hole that runs alongside our basement. I watched this ground hog devour my backyard summer flowers one day last July. He ate just the flowers, the tastiest bits, in a manner much like that mean cousin who eats all the M&Ms out of the trail mix and leaves you with the raisins. I contemplated gun ownership that day.

Jeanne said...

I just saw a large pack of deer wander through our back yard in the snow, looking pitiful, especially since one was limping. The pathos of the scene almost made me forget the sight of these same deer eating my tomato plants down to the nubs, and my lilies and tulips right down to the bulbs. Almost.

lemming said...

Ta for my poems.

I didn't have anything in particular in mind, just something with animals.
You have obliged!