And now, the prompt! Marianne Moore is probably best remembered for two things: long, long-lined poems that nonetheless had a precision to their music and imagery, a finicky grace, and the fact that she wrote so much about animals. For examples of both things happening at once, try The Fish, or He “Digesteth Harde Yron”, or The Pangolin, or any of dozens more.
In her honor, I challenge you today to write a poem about an animal. If you’re feeling up to it, try Moore’s trick of incorporating quotes or text from other sources — maybe you write about an elephant, and incorporate some elephant facts. This trick gave her work a collaged feeling, as though it is both educational and lyrical. You could also play around with varying line-lengths, oddly-shaped stanzas, or trying to write with her formal tone (she always sounds like a very dignified great-aunt to me). Happy Marianne Moore-ing!
Seeing as how today is a zoo day, I figured I would try my hand at absurdity. I’ve never been able to grasp how so many people really think of non-human animals as inanimate objects. Nevertheless, I long for the end of times when grizzlies & sharks & apes will (hopefully) have their revenge.
Ima get me some prison shoes
Freedom, a human’s inalienable right
to not be held captive, indeed,
not even for a fortnight.
What say you then to the plight
of our furrier brethren
PTSD-ing unto our children’s delight.
Are they not living beings?
Do they not merit dignity?
I suspect the general argument to be,
‘But they ain’t got no feelins!’
Every time I have been to the zoo
I swear they have telepathy:
They need a leader for the coup.
Who do I see, but Steve Zissou!
Elephant says, I’m with him!
All the rest: ‘Me too, me too!’
That’s how I’ll make my name,
just scuba to the gates of shame
Ninjitsu over the walls and free
the sick, the hungry, the lame.
Welp, there is this one animal who I REALLY REALLY loved and who changed my life for the better! So I humbly present, in all its tragicomedic mastery,
The Ballad of Zerorat
This here’s the story of a rat,
A rat who was a hero,
And if you can’t imagine that,
You’ve never heard of Zero.
He came to me, one eve at work
Inside a Petsmart box
I guess he could be called a “perk”
of some previous talks.
I had a friend who’d visit me
Inside my tiny flat.
And she would always ask, you see,
“Why don’t you have a cat?”
“My lease!” I’d cry, and sniffle some
“Will not allow a pet.”
She said, “Well, you are getting one,
On that, my friend, you bet.”
I told her, “Don’t get me a dog
A cat, some fish, or ferret,
A guinea pig, or poison frog.
My landlord wouldn’t bear it!”
She slyly grinned and took her leave;
I had forgot about it.
And when she called that April Eve
Her seriousness I doubted.
Though doubt I did, along she came
And brought along a rat.
I did exclaim, “You silly dame!
“What can I do with THAT?!”
(And that’s how Zero got his name,
Not cute, nor nice, nor loving,
Nor cause I gave my friend no blame,
Cause he was good for nothing!)
“Well, first,” she said, “You buy a cage
“And he can be your buddy!”
“A rat?” I said, “This modern age!”
But I’m no fuddy-duddy.
So off I went, and got a place
For Zerorat to live in,
He seemed to think I had good taste,
His whiskers were a-bristlin.
And sure, at first, it seemed confirmed
That surely he was useless
He peed on me, and always squirmed,
And ate up all the fruitses.
But over time, within my heart
There grew some small affection,
And Zero, for his little part
Was part of the connection.
But every ballad has an end,
And this one ends quite badly
Cos Zerorat, he came, and went.
And left me feeling sadly.
I won’t contrive to burden you
With details of his death.
Just know that it was painless; too,
That I laid him to rest.
But as for Zero’s heroism
Which at the start I mentioned,
He managed to be dear to this one,
And give my life dimension.
So even though old Zero’s gone,
His worth can’t be dismantled;
On Twitter, MtGO, and HoN,
Now “Zerorat” ‘s my handle.
And furthermore, you all should know
My life is like a jamboree,
Whereer I go, I’m ne’er alone;
I keep a ratty family!
RIP Zero, sweet little rattykins! Hope you are nibbling banana chips and peein on people in ratty heaven. ❤