Animal Poems – from the book “Rhyme and Reason with Animals” by Craig Gosling
African Hunting Dogs
No howls or barks were heard, the hunt was done in silence.
They stalked their prey as one, the hunting dog alliance.
They ran their prey to the ground and finally made the kill,
then gorged themselves on it until they had their fill.
At a signal from the matriarch they headed off for home
but did not bring their waiting pups a scrap of meat or bone.
The pups in the den hole, hungry from the wait,
scrambled out to meet the pack in a frenzied state.
The pack had brought home dinner as part of what they ate,
all they had to do was stoop and regurgitate.
All was well in the hunting clan when the pups were fed;
they lived their lives according to nature’s tested plan.
But now the African plain has changed and prey has disappeared.
And the dogs are dying off, just as we had feared.
The hunting dogs of Africa are wonders to behold,
but the few that still survive are castings from one mold.
Their DNA is so similar that diversity is lost
and without this necessity the dogs will pay the cost.
Extinction in wild Africa will soon be their fate
unless we all act before it’s too late.
Create and protect more wildlife parks for them and for their prey.
Do it now don’t hesitate, there can be no delay.
The wild dogs of Africa are a special canine clan
that were never domesticated by the hand of man.
Protect these dogs and their wild kin wherever they are found.
The earth will be a sadder place without them around.
Amphibian means you live in the water,
sometimes on land or wherever you oughter.
Amphibian means you live in a bog or
in the forest or under a log.
Amphibian means you hatched from an egg
without any lungs and without any legs.
Amphibian means you once were a tadpole
and changing your form was your main goal.
Amphibian means you might be a frog,
even a salamander or a pollywog.
Some amphibians know how to jump
just like a toad with lots of bumps.
Whatever the case it’s a precarious life
filled with danger and everyday strife.
Do what you can to help the amphibians;
they deserve our help as much as mammalians.
Many million years ago in the darkness of the night
a crescent moon shone above, along with stars most bright.
A heavy rolling surf, sired by storms at sea,
pounded the sandy shoreline all night relentlessly.
Tiny movements in the shadows of frozen waves of sand
were scuttling ghost crabs scavenging their lands.
The bubbling surf dissolved into the dark ocean breeze
and then retreated from the mark it temporarily had seized.
That night was no different from every summer night
when ancient rituals occur in the starry light,
when dark shapes appear in the rolling surf
and make their way from black water to their ancient place of birth.
Relentlessly they struggle upward with each bubbling wave
until they reach the spot that instinct makes them crave.
High on the shore, in the shadows of sand dunes,
desperate labor begins again, witnessed by the moon.
Heavy breathing and mystic groans are not heard by human ear,
and while they dig their nests they shed reptilian tears.
Finally, when their nests are deep enough, they complete the small miracle
by laying ninety eggs or more, soft and white and spherical.
That was many million years ago, but it is the same today.
Each night upon my beach the turtles come to lay
a clutch of little eggs that have little chance for life.
Compared to their chances I cannot complain of strife.
To witness this ancient miracle brings tears to human eyes,
salty like the ocean from which these reptiles rise.
What if no more marine life survived polluted seas?
What if no more cranes migrated as they pleased?
What if no more tigers hunted prey with stealth?
What if no more turtles crawled from the ocean’s wealth?
Would you stop and shed a tear and feel sincere regret?
Would you wish that you acted so you would not regret
the extinction of the creatures, that so enrich our lives,
and the mysterious great turtles that, alas, did not survive?
From the wilderness of Alaska,
from the sweep of glacial plain,
in the virgin woods and brambles
dwells a creature of legend’s fame.
Hulking, shuffling, ambling, sleeping,
foraging, fishing, fighting, eating.
Growing larger, growing stronger,
getting fatter for sleeping longer.
A giant creature is standing there,
a massive hulk of golden hair.
She’s waiting for the annual tide
of spawning fish at riverside.
In the churning streams of glacial water
surging down toward the sea
she stands and awaits the coming slaughter
of aging fish in splashing frenzy.
Then she strikes, then she plunges,
then she chases, then she lunges.
For a moment her head goes under
and her jaws fill with fatty plunder.
Two cubs watch the churning water,
watch their mother in the slaughter.
Curious, furious, predacious, voracious,
herbivorous, carnivorous, and even omnivorous.
Life goes on without a care,
without concern if it’s been fair
to hungry bears and spawning fish;
to human needs and human wish.
Bears and fish and other creatures,
carefully observed, are excellent teachers
telling us about the facts of life;
about the beauty and the strife.
They tell us what we must know
when to reap and when to sow.
They tell us how we should and should not live,
when to take and when to give.
The emu thought it had the crown
until the cassowary came around.
The cassowary was so proud
until the rhea joined the crowd.
The rhea was the biggest guy
until the ostrich happened by.
The ostrich stood eight feet tall
and was the biggest of them all
because the moa, at ten feet tall,
is now extinct I do recall.
Pity the poor chimpanzee who can’t read a book.
He can’t read a recipe or learn how to cook.
He can’t study philosophy and call himself wise.
He can’t dress up elegant and look civilized.
He can’t go to church and learn about God.
If he did I’m sure it would seem very odd.
He can’t give money to help those in need
no matter how much you might threaten or plead.
He can’t preach a sermon to a room full of sinners
or offer the blessing before lunches and dinners.
But, he would take communion, of bread and of wine,
not ever thinking about The Divine.
He can’t sit quietly and pray to the Lord
because he’d get sleepy or totally bored.
For animals, like him, salvation’s not in sight,
to enter into Heaven, he hasn’t a right.
He sure doesn’t know what is moral or not,
he’s just a chimpanzee, incase you forgot.
His life is confined to a primitive state.
Compared to a human he just does not rate.
He fights and he screams whenever he can,
not much different than woman and man.
He cares for his family, he loves and he hates.
He has all emotions and human-like traits.
Because we know he’s our closest of kin,
to let his race die would be our great sin.
Take the time to look into his eyes
and see something there to recognize.
He is ninety-nine percent exactly like us
including his need to be promiscuous.
If you really cared about chimpanzees in trees
you’d worry less about your comfort and ease.
So pity the chimpanzee who can’t read a book;
he may not be here the next time you look.
And neither will we, unless we all vow
to save his environment and ours, somehow.
So, what’s new coelacanth?
What have you done that we can’t?
Four hundred million years ago you swam
before dinosaurs walked on land.
You had limbs that would be legs
before reptiles hatched from eggs.
If you had just one free wish
would you be a lobed-fin fish?
Not long ago you were unknown
except from fossils cast in stone.
We thought that you were long extinct,
your portrait drawn in books with ink.
And then on that fateful day
you were caught and put on display
for all the world to see and wonder,
to be dissected and pulled asunder.
There’s much that’s new since you were born.
Now there’re creatures in human form.
I don’t know how long they’ll last,
but you’ll be here when they’ve passed.
Crocs and Gators
Crocodiles are ancient creatures
with fearsome, toothy, facial features.
And alligators? They’ll see you later,
in their pond, if you’re a wader.
Is there a difference between these beasts,
something you can see at least?
The main difference between croc and gator,
if you asked a zoo curator,
is easily notice by their teeth
in fearsome jaws that spell grief.
Just look carefully when mouths are closed
and see which teeth are still exposed.
Between meals when their mouths are shut
you cannot see gator’s teeth pointing up.
when they smile or when they frown.
Crocs’ teeth are exposed, both up and down,
If you’re puzzled and still have doubts
just take a look at their snouts.
Gators’ snouts are wide and blunt.
Crocs’ are long and narrow in front.
If you’re careless it doesn’t matter
if you meet the former or the latter.
Both are willing, if you blunder,
to grab your leg and pull you under.
A tiny speck up in the sky is coming closer you can rely.
Above my head it soars with grace, it’s coming closer at rapid pace!
It hardly flaps its great wings, it’s coming closer this flying thing!
It’s a bird of Indian lore, it’s closer now than it was before!
Now it’s looking down at me or at something I cannot see.
Here it comes swooping low! It’s hunting something this I know.
Talons now are poised to snatch a live meal, a tasty catch.
I’ll duck my head just in case so I don’t meet it face to face.
It passed by me and slashed the lake with razor talons, for goodness sake!
Without a pause to say good-by, up it rose toward the sky.
In its talons, slippery and wet, was its dinner you can bet.
A meal of fish sure tastes great, shared with chicks and a mate.
Raw fish is mostly used for bait and some think sushi really tastes great.
Eagles think it’s normal food but eating it ruins my mood.
There’s no way I can tolerate the raw fish those eagles ate.
Salmon, cod and even trout, eaten raw, I’ll do without.
All the creatures, since life began, live their lives by nature’s plan.
What they eat and how they live is really quite imaginative.
Multi-cellular and protozoan, it’s up to us to keep them going.
Talon, hand, hoof and paw, I hold them all in equal awe.
A wonderful animal is the worm.
Pick one up and let it squirm
through your fingers and out of your hand
back to its home, in the warm, wet land.
You’ll have to examine it in close detail
to tell which end is its head and which is its tail.
Or put it back down upon the ground
and watch which way it moves around.
There’s another fact about the worm
that, when you’re older, you’ll want to learn.
Each of them is both male and female.
It’s really a long and confusing detail.
With five pairs of hearts as a main feature
the earthworm should be a lovable creature.
It hasn’t a nose to breathe fresh air in
so it has to breath through its very wet skin?
Worms are tasty but don’t take my word.
You’ll just have to ask a fish or a bird.
That they’re strange creatures there is no doubt,
which makes them more interesting to learn about.
They work very hard, in case you didn’t know,
improving the soil and helping plants grow.
An important wee animal is the earthworm
playing a role, that you have now learned,
in nature’s kingdom of animals and plants
deep under the grass with beetles and ants.
Groups of Things
A group of horses has a word
known to all as a herd.
A bunch of sheep, if you take stock,
gather together in a flock.
A mess of fish is really cool
swimming together in a school.
Tons of whales eating cod
swim together in a pod.
A family of lions, says our guide,
sleep together in a pride.
When wolves get ready to attack
they gather together in a pack.
When lots of quails get lovey dovey
they spend their time in a covey.
When geese pass overhead at night
we know they are in a flight.
When together on the ground they straggle
We know them all as a gaggle.
Flocking crows usually hang
out together in a gang.
Buzzing bees take the form
of getting together in a swarm.
Flocking ravens get a boost
By living together in a roost.
African wild dogs really seem
to be members of an athletic team.
A lot of kids learning fast
are found together in a class.
The page of words at which you look
are usually found in a book.
Rhyming words have been known
to come together in a poem.
I Wanna Iguana
I wanna iguana the little boy said to his dad.
It’s the one pet I always wished that I had.
I’ll clean its cage and feed it good food,
even those times when I’m not in the mood.
I wanna iguana because it’s so neat.
It’ll sit there and wait for me to give it a treat.
I sometimes wonder if it would rather be free
instead of sitting so still looking at me.
I wanna iguana because I love animals,
fish and birds, reptiles and mammals.
I wonder what thoughts reside in its head.
Is it glad to see me or does it just want to be fed?
Is the iguana just a simple dumb creature
satisfied to be my terrarium’s main feature?
Or, would it rather be free to roam and explore,
on sofas and lamps and all over the floor?
And when I get older and go off to college,
to learn about zoology and other good knowledge,
I’ll leave my iguana at home in its terrarium,
although, on my shoulder, I’ll miss wearing him.
The largest animals on earth still live today
and glide through vast oceans as they find their way
over mountains and valleys in oceans deep,
on seasonal migrations they manage to keep.
In transparent liquid bright from the sun
they swim on their way till day is done.
And then in night’s ink, speckled with stars,
They swim on without pause, no place is too far.
Their lives have adjusted to weightless existence
while eating plankton for their subsistence.
Billions of creatures you barely can see
are filtered and swallowed as quick as can be.
They mate and they calve in warm waters not deep
and every so often out of the ocean they’ll leap.
Although leviathans swim as well as they do
their ancestors had legs; it’s strange but true.
Legs slowly evolved into flukes and fins,
bodies became streamlined and fur became skin.
In its magnificence and in its detail,
this is how nature created the whale.
Spiders I can tolerate
Centipedes I really hate
Earthworms are used for bait
Ladybugs are really great
Bees help plants germinate
Lighting bugs illuminate
Many bugs impersonate
Praying mantis decapitate
Bed bugs infuriate
Some creatures I exterminate
But most of them I appreciate