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Brendan Christopher: Animal Atrophy
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
  • The dodo and the penal colony
    In the shadow of the tambalacoque tree
    the dodo is so trusting; I can approach
    without a flinch or a blink from his
    crescent-moon eye. How awkwardly
    he stalks his prey, pries open the husk
    with his shoe-horn beak; how quickly
    the drupe dives down his gullet—
    and disappears.
    Over the hills dark laborers creep
    with baskets fixed to their heads, tilting
    over grapes and nuts. While prisoners
    inside walls of stone untwist old rope
    into corkscrew strands, and women
    locked inside their homes shuck corn,
    the dodo, without politic or instrument,
    simply waits for the sound of the fruit
    and the ground.

    White rhino seen on safari at Kruger National Park
    The men shooting film
    ask if its wounds are new
    or old, as if its bruised eye
    could one day fully open
    or the mutilated snout
    where its horns once extended
    could be sewn. Still, it grazes
    on the outskirts of the veldt
    and I watch it lower its mouth
    to the ground, ears pulled back
    like a cow. It bows low enough
    to smell the earth, if it can smell
    at all. At first I think I see it rip
    a tuft of grass from the dirt
    -- no, the tuft is a gob of dangling flesh.
    Now it stumbles toward a patch
    of sunlight, the weight of its torso,
    like the armor of an ancient
    warrior, appears ready to overtake
    the legs. The cameras keep rolling,
    poised for the grand exit, all of us
    waiting for its stubbornness to give
    before the rangers arrive with their guns.

    The toad
    I grip tightly to the squeamish prize
    trapped between my palms
    opening slightly
    to see translucent, bulging eyes,
    its body, briefly, becoming stiff
    (perhaps hoping I slip
    and think it dead). I close again
    feeling its puckered lip
    pursed between my fingers, hanging
    in the balance, the verdict
    to squeeze, clamp down,
    punish its blubbery head
    —all mine.
    out of pity I let go
    and it’s free at first blush
    when my sneaker, the aggressor,
    turns the splotchy critter
    into splotchy plot of mush.

    Oh mouse
    oh mouse, brought
    into this world for what
    a few jaunts
    under the radiator
    brushed into
    the waste bin
    still nibbling at me
    the next day

    Grandma's old cat
    she could only limp
    a fat limp
    blubber dangling
    down to her stubby feet
    pops called her
    the beer keg
    but her name was Mickey
    one broiling New Hampshire day
    Mickey started wheezing
    her pupils got big and mysterious
    like crop circles
    grandma drove her to the vet
    while sis and i prayed upstairs
    it was hot
    too hot for God to care
    about a stupid cat

    It came; it didn’t
    it came bridled
    clip-clopping down the desert path
    saddled with a mustachioed master
    who pulled back his reins
    and let out a "whoa"
    halting the clop ( and the clip)
    its piqued ears picked up
    a roadrunner’s coo
    (which was fainter
    than the last) when
    distracted by sounds
    of glug glug glug
    tilted its parched mouth upward
    in desperate want of greeting
    water drops descending
    from canteen or the blue
    languid, waiting
    to feel the jerk of its neck
    the sting in its side
    to move
  • In 2011, Brendan woke up on a lazy Saturday morning—probably hung-over—and suddenly began writing poetry. He stumbled across Poetry Circle and knew almost immediately this is where he wanted to be. Brendan is a teacher in the Boston area who enjoys cutting edge rock music, quality beer, and thinking about humankind’s impact on the planet.
You, shadwell smith and Julie like this.
  1. Linda Benninghoff
    I loved the first poem about the bird and the second about the rhino.  I loved  your focus on different sorts of animals that tie it together--the mouse that lives for a jaunt near the radiator, the cat that God didn't care about.
  2. David Belcher
    These poems hang together well. These aren't the average animal poems you read just about every place. The poems here made me think of my own relationship with animals.

    Thought the first poem great fun, too.
  3. Charles Andrew
    "thinking about humankind’s impact on the planet":   _Humana Festa, a novel_. By Regina Rheda.  Educational Publishers, 2012. Suggestion.
  4. I like your way of choosing words. Brilliant
  5. Jon Anderson
    Excellent Showcase Brendan! This is a fine collection of work. Congrats.
  6. tiko lewis
    well done.
    a nice collection.

  7. brendan christopher
    thanks to everyone for their comments on this--and to Michael for putting this collection together.  appreciate it...
  8. Michael Ashley
    Fabulous, Brendan!
  9. Tom Riordan
    A great brief bestiary! Enjoyed this, Brendan. Tom
  10. Vidya Panicker
    A set of poems, all outdoing each other. Well done Brendan! Dodo,rhino and cat were especially good!
    Jay Dougherty likes this.
  11. TrishSaunders
    Brendan, these are fantastic! I remember these poems: the dodo and the penal colony was a particular favorite of mine. Congratulations.
    Jay Dougherty likes this.
  12. maggie flanagan-wilkie
    Glad to see you've put a collection together, Brendan.
  13. Cheryl.Leverette
    wonderful reading, Brendan!