Could a mockingbird mimic the strains of “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” or any other section of “The Planets,” that lovely set of tone poems composed by Gustav Holst? Imagine the melancholy tune of “Mars, the Bringer of War” issuing from the throat of a bird. Though such complex mimicry may be beyond birds’ abilities, animals frequently amaze and amuse us with their behavior.
Why do these behaviors hold such charm for us? Is it the recognition of our own triumphs and foibles when we look at them? We see ourselves in their behavior and even their anatomy. The bones of a bird’s wing, revealed in the glow of an X-ray, are those of a human hand. The same is true of a whale’s flipper, which moves it through the ocean in tandem with the thrust of its tail.
Our assessment of animals is often inaccurate. We gasp when hearing how a captive killer whale, incarcerated for years, bit more than the “feeding hand” and took the life of its keeper. These intelligent beings learn tricks rapidly, but intelligence makes them dangerous captives. For millennia, killer whales have survived in ocean currents, but an escape becomes a “current event.”
We forget that they are killers, able to take a seal or a man in a fast attack. Charm ends here, for they have become too much like us. We, too, kill to survive. Whether dining on wild-harvested venison or range-fed beef, we sacrifice other lives on the altar of our continued existence. Even a vegan, consuming only plants, feeds on the lives of other beings.
Killer whales, intelligent captives in public displays, are not meant to perform for our amusement, let alone on a regular schedule, not even when that performance includes a narrative intended to generate empathy and respect. We will only make peace with our animal neighbors when we see them in us as we see ourselves in them.
Where else would my article on the hellbender, North America’s giant salamander, appear than in the Hellbender Press? I wrote the article after interviewing Dr. Brian Miller, professor and researcher at Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Miller has been researching hellbenders for 40 years and offered great insights into the lives of these impressive yet reclusive creatures. Hellbender Press - Hellbenders falling off Highland Rim of Tennessee
Waxing & Waning, a literary journal, publishes a diverse array of contemporary southern writers. In their own words, the editors “want what’s on the fringe. Whatever is deep and true. The moon represents this idea: what is dark, what is brooding, what is wild, what is crescent and changing.” https://www.waxingandwaning.org
April Gloaming Publishing of Nashville has released Sinew, a collection of poems by Poetry in the Brew participants. This open mic group recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of live open mics at the loft of Portman Brewing East, a Nashville coffee shop. Pandemic panic sent them online, and while the online event continues, live performance at the coffee shop has returned as well. My poem “Green” appears in the anthology, along with work by Chattanooga poet Christian Collier. April Gloaming Publishing – “Amplifying the voices of the unbridled holler.”
April Gloaming Publishing – "Amplifying the voices of the unbridled holler."
I just received a copy of Bearshit on the Trail: Essential Poems of Earth First! The 477 pages of poetry appear to be drawn from the poetry column of the Earth First! Journal. There is an ISBN but no identifiable publisher.