From the child who imagines himself to be an animal, to the belief that we have animal spirits residing within us, it is not uncommon for us to identify with an animal. What I found appealing about the James Laughlin poem "Like the Octopus" (from Collected Poems , New Directions) is that he selects a rather unattractive species. Given a choice we probablt would like to identify with a more appealing creature than the octopus. And then he cleverly links it to his writing. I have no idea what a "submarine squeak of love" is, but I like it. The line breaks are doing something too- something I'm not curious enough right now to figure out.

Select an animal you feel some kinship with and use it for this poem.
Need some guidance? Try Animal Spirit Guides & Totems


That sound that night
as we walked dark retreat house paths
through drifts of moonish snow:
some shadow turned to flesh?
the cold night air itself
fleshed into rabbit, deer, or crow?
You laughed that my uncountry heart
could not find room for darkness,
but led me back into the lit
and warm place there inside.
When the abbess said at breakfast
that coyotes prowled the night,
our breath froze into crystals
while we conjured back that sound.
It's always somewhere, isn't it,
that coyote in the snow?
Slinking there outside your door,
pawing at my window,
thin and wild and desperate now,
our trickster worn to bone
without the night to hunt, to feed.

R.G. Evans


I am a spider
hanging over the center
of my room
hiding my face
from the street outside
and the kids yelling in the yard,
waiting for the shadows
to lengthen, to darken,
so I can sit in silence
spinning my web of words
from the leftover silk of dreams.

Mark Hillringhouse


She would like nothing more
than to slip out of her shell
and feel the soft apron of her stomach
cradled against his. She knows
that when she undresses for him,
he will be tender, carry her safely
until her new shell forms,
and she can protect herself.
But she-crabs mate only once in their lives
and afterwards can never molt again.
It will be her last chance to grow,
last chance to shed what doesn’t fit
anymore, which is why she hides
at the edge of the estuary.
Can the coupling she longs for
be enough to last a lifetime?
No wonder she skitters from side to side.

Susan Rothbard


My friskiness is nearly gone, frisked out of me;
but yours just goes on endlessly.
You are my curly canine cousin on four legs;
We have formed a union unheard of between our species.
You run to me with eagerness, and my creaky unoiled affections
are instantly leashed to your sweet pulsating boundless aliveness.
I am a passing acquaintance in your simple existence,
but when your twisty tail wags my way,
and you pant wildly merely because I am there,
my two-legged world soars to heights beyond my recognition.

Ann Steiner


naked, environed, ephemeral,
eyes unblinking, i hide in my jungle
used to this sort of thing
feline tendencies, maybe,

yet more clever than a great cat
ever watchful, keen
and alert
to the scent of danger,
i lick my wounds,
content in secret knowledge that only i know
my hiding place
i swallow pink air,

and breathe
night wind-whispers
i sleep awake,
and walk through my slumber
i stretch,

and the moon strokes my spine
i cover with constellations,
artfully tucking points here

and there
if disturbed, i need not do much,
except yawn, roll over,

and vanish
feline tendencies, maybe,
but more clever
i am chameleon



Her black eyes gleamed at me
I was filled with intense attraction
For every look of wonder, curiosity from her
I leapt to tell an answer

Two black, round, shining, beads
Set in a comely, furry, canine face
Filled with eager joy and mischief
Invite me to carry her

I celebrate this marvel of nature
This awesome, exhilarating encounter
How much I want to pet & cuddle her
How much I want her to know I do

I bend forward and lift her
Her feverish licks welcome me
I pause to admire the flurry, fluffy tail
That wags incessantly for me

As I hold her close I can feel
The warmth of her tiny body
I swell with happiness and pride
Becoming of mother hugging her child

This surge of maternal love
That fills me from head to toe
Is abruptly interrupted
By a barrage of beckoning barks

I quickly look up to attest her calls
I catch another canine marvel respond
Once again, black, round, shining, beads
Set in yet another comely, glistening, canine face
Invite us with wonder and hope

"Won't you lift me?
Won't you cuddle me?"
Are the heartening questions they pose

With her well-modulated barks
Boskie answers for both of us
"There is always enough room
For the likes of all of us;

Besides, one makes it a spoilt existence
Two makes for delightful company,
Three is certainly not crowd
For there's more to play
when there are as many."

Suchitra Sarangarathnam


The fluke of the whale
always disappears
a moment ago.

The sea lion slides
into the rock.
No roar.

Broeck Wahl



i feed the chicks
their morning meal
tiny beaks
jut toward me
in a ravenous frenzy

i fly in different directions
seek the sweet scent
of honeysuckle
the source of
this magical perfume

a reddish brown light
pulses in the dark woods
beckons me as
warm fingers
lift my tired wings

transported to
patches of honeysuckle
i fill myself with the
nectar of the gods
come to light

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


This one watches.
And something on her dark head
speaks to us of silver when she bends.
She does not shout or run, or try to see
how close we let her come before we
have to show the power of our wings.
This one watches.
She is quiet, not like those shining,
fast moving creatures that blare at us
and scare us across the hard path we
take when we want the sweeter grass.
This one watches.
She does not throw us bread,
she only sits and breathes and makes
her small, black scratches on that white.
This one watches.
She wants.

There is a shiver when we call,
a stretching in her shoulders towards the sky.

Svea Barrett-Tarleton


Birds on an electric wire.
Cormorants, moving so easily
from earth, to air, then slipping into water.
Elemental movement.
The thought of these birds swimming -

Did I dream of them?
Here in new morning,
intimations of change.
Is that what it means?
Hints, suggestions?
Somewhere in there intimacy.
Feelings private, secret,
now made known.

She moves from the shower
in clouds she has perfumed,
to the cool air of the bedroom.
Her hair is water-combed,
still wet and darkly slick,
and when she is above me,
drops from her face,
her breasts, her tongue,
burn like fire.

Ken Ronkowitz


I was a Congressman, serving
as the Chairman for the Committee

to Preserve the Natural Behavior of Pachyderms
and the Study of Packsaddles. We were

fully funded. But when they counted
the ballots, I was disenfranchised, booted

from the rostrum of functionaries. Time
is not on my side, not the amendment, not

the page tapping on my desk. I'd hoped
to save the beast from its tamed acceptance

of the whip, the plumed wand, the pink balloon.
I'm sorry for my fingers exploring his veined ears,

and for he unbudgeted junket to his trunk,
annulated in crevasses. I encouraged his trumpeting.

Everyone knows a defeat when it's broadcast
in the gallery, when the ayes have had it, all

the pretty whispers behind a hand. I've finished
with inquiries, buried my peroration in a field of bones.

Joanne Kelley


not quite
the peanut-loving
viewed from
the back seat
in my pajamas
at the drive-in

not the twirling
sweet pink variety
of my tipsy years
(fleetingly brief
and oh-so-long discarded)

these days
my legs share
the gray chaff
of age, the slow lumber
out of slumber

the heft that wants
to avoid the need
to stand upright
tromping tender shoots
under my tiny, weighted toes

there's a slowness now
a blind decay in reaching
with uncoiling trunk
for that highest branch.

Michelle Cameron


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