Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Week 1: Your favorite non-human narrative or poem

The Fly
(William Blake, 1794)

Little Fly
Thy summer's play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing;
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath;
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

Because I worked in a drosophila lab for a few years, not so long ago, I have come to appreciate this poem. Drosophila have an average lifespan of 23 days.

I invite you to post your favorite (short) poem, fable, short-short story/ novel excerpt or a video link to a movie scene, even music video that produces a narrative of a non-human animal. After, offer 1-2 sentences on why your chose it.

Please POST in this conversation thread. Length of post is your choice.


  1. The Raven
    Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 - 1849

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
    "‘Tis some visitor," I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
    Only this and nothing more.”

    This is my favorite poem because it is so dark and offers up a take on Edgar Allen's personal life. Because it is so long I have only included the first stanza.

  2. Good one. And I don't think I know of any literary reference where the raven is not bleak.

  3. If Animals Spoke our Language
    Animals speak to us in their own way,
    but if they spoke with words, what would they say?
    One thing I declare, without ANY doubt:
    All creatures in cages would say 'Let me out!'

    'Watch my eyes follow your every motion'
    A dog would say, 'my life speaks of devotion'.
    A horse would say, 'A fire burns deep within me
    that yearns to run through the countryside, free!'

    'You can be soft and cuddly, like I am'
    illustrates an adorable little lamb.
    'Soar with your thoughts like I soar through the sky,'
    advises a wood pigeon gliding by.

    'Help, my mother's been shot' a fawn would cry,
    who woefully witnessed her mother die.
    She'd flee in fear to her cousins and brother,
    'The scariest beast of all killed my mother.'

    'Your blindness to bovines is an oddity,
    for you see us as a mere commodity.
    It's so sad; all the exploitation we've seen,
    We are conscious beings treated like a machine.'

    'Some scientists are really quite confused
    seeking answers by primates being abused.
    I, with eyes that greatly resemble yours,
    see madness in some things that man explores.'

    'I can't breathe or move; I'm living in hell!'
    cries a chicken from her crowded prison cell.
    'Humans inflict such excruciating pain',
    With a hook in his mouth, a fish would explain.

    One way we can improve the human race
    is to respect those of a different face.
    We need to listen in a whole new way
    to what animals are trying to say.

    -Marcia ‘Butterflies’ Katz

    1. I choose this one because I read it a few years ago and al of her poems have really made an impact on me as I switched to a vegan lifestyle in order to try to live in harmony and to respect all living beings.

    2. You know what, I remember when Marcia protested the cutting down of a tree and lived in it. This brings me back. Whoa. Thanks.

      "One way we can improve the human race/is to respect those of a different face." says it all.

  4. I also have two favorites from Shel Silverstein, who I read all the time as a kid. This one applies to the zoo which we've been talking about a lot this week.
    I got grabbed by the elk and the caribou.
    They tied me up with vine lassoo
    And whisked me away to Animaloo,
    Where they locked me up in the People Zoo.

    Now I’m here in a cage that is small as can be
    (You can’t let wild people just run around free),
    And I’m fed bread and tea at a quarter to three,
    And the animals all come and gander to me.

    They point and they giggle and sometimes they spit
    (There’s bars on my cage, so they can’t poke or hit),
    And they scream, “Do a trick,” but I stubbornly sit,
    Not doin’ nothin’ … but thinking’s a bit.

    So if you come visit, just howl, honk, or moo
    And try to pretend you’re an animal, too.
    ‘Cause if you’re a person, they’ll throw you into
    Cage Two of the zoo here in Animaloo.

    And then this is one of my favorites:
    Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless
    Christmas dinner's dark and blue
    When you stop and try to see it
    From the turkey's point of view.
    Sunday dinner isn't sunny
    Easter feasts are just bad luck
    When you see it from the viewpoint
    Of a chicken or a duck.
    Oh how I once loved tuna salad
    Pork and lobsters, lamb chops too
    'Til I stopped and looked at dinner
    From the dinner's point of view.

  5. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

    In the great green room
    There was a telephone
    And a red balloon
    And a picture of
    The cow jumping over the moon
    And there were three little bears sitting on chairs
    And two little kittens
    And a pair of mittens
    And a little toy house
    And a young mouse
    And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush
    And a quiet old lady who was whispering “hush”
    Goodnight room
    Goodnight moon
    Goodnight cow jumping over the moon
    Goodnight light
    And the red balloon
    Goodnight bears
    Goodnight chairs
    Goodnight kittens
    And goodnight mittens
    Goodnight clocks
    And goodnight socks
    Goodnight little house
    And goodnight mouse
    Goodnight comb
    And goodnight brush
    Goodnight nobody
    Goodnight mush
    And goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”
    Goodnight stars
    Goodnight air
    Goodnight noises everywhere

    I chose this short story/poem (?) because this was my favorite book to read when I was very little and it holds a special place in my heart. Until now, though, I had never really realized how this was framed from an animal's perspective -- my little kid mind just skipped over the fact that they're rabbits, I guess.

    1. yes, I suppose most of how we learn to be compassionate as humans comes from literature and verse about animals and nature...and yet we scorch the earth.

  6. The Maldive Shark - Poem by Herman Melville
    About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
    Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
    The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
    How alert in attendance be.
    From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw,
    They have nothing of harm to dread,
    But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
    Or before his Gorgonian head;
    Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
    In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
    And there find a haven when peril's abroad,
    An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
    They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
    Yet never partake of the treat --
    Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
    Pale ravener of horrible meat.

    I chose this poem because, plain and simple, I'm fascinated by sharks. Do they terrify me? Yes. But they are also so gorgeous and mysterious and interesting. Great whites, bulls and tigers are my favorites.

    1. Another great poem I have not read before. thanks!

  7. I saw this episode of Rugrats once: "A Dog's Life." I think it may have been the first time I ever found out dog's are colorblind. Either way, it really stuck with me for all these years:

    Watching it again as an adult, it's an interesting way to think about our relationship with our pets. It both informs and challenges the way I communicate with my own dog and cat.

    1. thanks for this. I forgot all about Rugrats until now.

  8. This is an excerpt from John Keat’s “Ode to a Nightingale”:

    Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
    No hungry generations tread thee down;
    The voice I hear this passing night was heard
    In ancient days by emperor and clown:
    Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
    Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
    The same that oft-times hath
    Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

    Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
    To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
    Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
    As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
    Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
    Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
    Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
    In the next valley-glades:
    Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
    Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

    Keats is writing to a bird he hears singing outside his window and compares the lack of freedom he feels (Keats is bedridden and dying at this point in his career) to the freedom he imagines for the bird. His alludes to many interesting point in Greek mythology throughout the poem to emphasis the immortality he is ascribing to the bird.

  9. The Animals by Edwin Muir

    They do not live in the world,
    Are not in time and space.
    From birth to death hurled
    No word do they have, not one
    To plant a foot upon,
    Were never in any place.

    For with names the world was called
    Out of the empty air,
    With names was built and walled,
    Line and circle and square,
    Dust and emerald;
    Snatched from deceiving death
    By the articulate breath.

    But these have never trod
    Twice the familiar track,
    Never never turned back
    Into the memoried day.
    All is new and near
    In the unchanging Here
    Of the fifth great day of God,
    That shall remain the same,
    Never shall pass away.
    I chose this poem because I think that author managed to provide an interesting perspective on animals in which they both lack some of the power of their human counterparts but also possess greater independence. For example he describes how animals lack speech explaining "not one word do they have" but also describes how their life is constantly free and interesting claiming that in their simpler lives " all is new and clear." Thus the author comes to the conclusion that the same qualities that have given humans a higher standing in the animal kingdom also limit us to a more structured and at times monotonous and repetitive life.

  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpV7NIJTxD0

    This is a scene from Finding Nemo that features the sea turtle, Crush. I chose this scene because I feel Crush and I share a chillaxed personality that blessed and blissful lifestyle. This scene also shows Crush genuinely and uninhibitedly enjoying a thrilling life experience, which is also something I am fond of doing :)

    1. personality that reflects a blessed and blissful lifestyle*

  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr1dvT8di80

    This is a trailer for the movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. I chose this movie because I remember watching it over and over again as a child, along with the sequel Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco. Aside from being one of my favorite childhood films, it also happens to told from the perspective of three non-human animals: Chance the American Bulldog, Shadow the Golden Retriever and Sassy the cat. In the film, the three are left behind when their family goes on vacation, so they embark on a journey to find their way back home. In the end, it is kind of interesting to think that your pets worry about you as much as you worry about them.

  12. Grace Like No Other
    by: Abigail H. Butkus

    She has grace like no other.
    Those mysterious, blue tiger-eyes of hers pounce as you look at her glistening glimmer.
    Her face, sweet as honey, pure like apple blossoms,
    Confidence through her veins giving her a warrior-like complexion that rises like the sun.
    Her hair, explains of sweet reason gliding as of wind and gust.
    Her voice, calming and lovely as the loon's call in the mist of the night.
    Every aspect of her is complete;
    An image of beauty and grace,
    One dreams of her nature.
    Michelangelo could not capture the beauty that lies within her.
    Who dares to compare?
    Oh, she has grace like no other!

    I chose this poem because it reminds me of how my mother raised me. She would always tell me that a woman should always carry herself gracefully like a tiger. They carry themselves in such a majestic manner that they don't need to prove that they are beautiful, it's known that they are. She would always remind me that you don't have to prove that you are beautiful. Makeup doesn't matter, hairstyling doesn't matter, it's all about how you carry yourself.

  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdd3C1E85s4
    This is the movie The Fox and the Hound. I watched this when I was a little girl and then recently with my younger brother. Movies with animals always make me cry, no matter what.