by Jessica Pierce
The female in particular seems worthy.
She carries mud in her jaws to make her nest
one mouthful at a time, setting up
in a crevice or a corner. One egg,
one chamber. One egg, one chamber.
It’s better to keep them apart, as larvae don’t
know the difference between food and
a brother or a sister. They aren’t wicked,
just young and hungry. She has pirate
wasps to battle—they want her young
to feed their own offspring—and she does this
alone, drinking flower nectar to keep
herself going. Let’s just try
and see what happens when we raise up
this winged thing who will hover by your feet
without attacking. Covered with dense golden
hair and sometimes described as singing while
she works, all she wants is bits of damp dirt.
She has a slender thorax and two thin
sets of wings to carry her and
her earth. She is exactly strong enough
for what she needs to do. She doesn’t burn
or proclaim or fill your head with visions
as she hunts crab spiders and orb
weavers and black widows. Yes, let’s ask
her to pray for us as she stings
a black widow, brings it to its knees,
and sets off to feed her children,
singing as she holds up the world. Read More
by Michael Chaney
Featured Artwork: Diner by John Dubrow
By the time the cow set down the samosas, covering the spot where he’d earlier hooved his name, Fox seemed different to Pig.
“Simply marvelous,” Pig said with an air, trying to play it off.
Fox coughed. “May I have more water?” Annoyance puckered her auburn snout.
“Not a problem,” said the cow. “Mind if I brag about our wines?”
“Please do, darling.” Fox had a lovey-dovey way of talking. To Pig, she was not so different from the elegant junk in herringbone patterns on the walls: bugles, radios, troughs, collars, toys, and white puffy gloves. Read More
by Catherine Stearns
Featured Art: Landscape with Dog by Thomas Doughty
“We may be in the universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.” —William James
On sunny, cerulean days I go all the way
to eleven when I stretch and sniff among the leaves,
whereas you stay inside, hunched over
your moral universe. Old girl, if you
stopped trying to decipher those fossil bird tracks,
you might see the thermal-gliding hawk above
or that zaftig possum gnawing on fallen
persimmons under the window. I’m just saying
your preference betrays a certain fear
of your own nature. Remember
last summer when you left me in the car
to pick up a book they were holding for you,
and a page or two in you recognized
your own penciled and may I say
obsessive marginalia, although you had
no memory of the text itself?
Whatever made you think your mind
could be disenthralled with words?
As a pup, I once took Mark Strand’s
injunction in “Eating Poetry” to heart,
devouring one or two slim volumes,
but soon realized I prefer the raw
material of life, what e e cummings
calls “the slavver of spring”: smells
of fresh earth, the ghostly scent of
rabbits, even the mounds of dirty laundry
piled up on your bed. If you found answers
to your questions, do you truly believe
those answers would transform you?
So many of your species seem
susceptible to revelation. We’re all
browsers, old girl, without an inkling,
waiting by the door for a treat or to be forgiven
until our unleashed immortal part bolts
for that hit of dopamine. Then
all good dogs go to heaven.
by Erika Brumett
Featured art: Summer: Cat on a Balustrade by Théophile-Alexandre Pierre Steinlen
“One by one—in convents across medieval Europe—nuns began to believe they were cats.”
–Michael Garerda (Shared Hysteria: Group Madness and the Middle Ages)
Happened after mass
last sabbath. We broke
fast (curdmilk, cabbage),
sat rigid in our hair-
shirts and worship. But heard
then—urgent as prayer
by the dais—a purr-
purring rise from Sister
Mary Iris. Since then, Read More
by Abby Horowitz
Featured Art: Sleeping Lion and Lioness by Samuel Raven
I am trying to tell Francine about the new babies in my life. They’re lions, baby lions, and they have fur the color of corn flakes and little ears that look straight off a teddy bear and they turn my heart right to butter. But here is the kicker: their mother is dead. Something weird must have happened when she birthed them because a little while later, they found her stretched out in the dirt up front by the viewing glass. The father lion was roaring on his big rock, with his mane standing on end, while the cubs were kneading their paws into the mother lion’s white underbelly and gnawing at her black teats. But no dice, that lioness would roar no more and now things do not look good for those little cubs. Because they’re not taking well to the fake milk they’re getting now or the plastic nipples they’re getting it from, and the father lion keeps pawing around with an evil look on his face that is making the zoo staff nervous. Read More
by Nancy Eimers
Featured art: A Bird’s-Eye View by Theodore Robinson
My neighbor Lee is calling her cat home again
in a voice high and sweet
up there in the ether where everything is in question.
Back down inside her the urge
is probably to answer the questions herself—
the name of the cat is both question and answer—
or to save time and actually see the cat Read More
by Geneviève Paiement
Featured art: from A Picture Book of Practice Sketches by Rinsai Ōkubo
-In September 2018, Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Gül Dölen
published a scientific study wherein she dosed octopuses with MDMA
to see if they would react like humans and become more cuddly. They did.
She hypothesizes that humans are more closely related to octopuses
than we think. Fills a tank with ecstasy. Plunks in us two octopuses.
Just five hundred million years of evolution between us, she muses.
Surely what MDMA does to humans it will do to us octopuses.
Surely we’ll break out in the same cold-sweat/hot-flash, will twist-grind
our visceral humps, bump beaks, squish-entwine our fellow octopus.
Oh wow. I’m at the other’s central axial nerve pump in a house beat,
sucker-to-sucker, lights-out smoke machine to my sister sextapus. Read More
by Winnie Anderson
Featured Artwork: The Waterfall by Henri Rousseau
Eons ago, during the Pleistocene Epoch, the jaguar left his home and traveled across the cold arid grassland: his resolve set. The floods were coming again. If he stayed, the land would either be covered with water or be broken into land pockets, from which there’d be no escape. The time was now. He had to go.
In him the jaguar carried echoes of history, tens of millions of years’ worth of heat spikes, ice ages, tectonic upheavals, and mega-explosions. Time swirled uniquely around him. He felt two trajectories at once—like a stone cast into the deep lake of time, sinking down to the bottom where all life may have begun, as well as the outward rippling cat’s paw upon its surface. History. Present. Future. All there, his for the grappling. Read More
by Tom Whalen
Featured art: Still Life with Poppy, Insects, and Reptiles by Otto Marseus van Schrieck
One more step and we are out of the circle and have entered the domain, equally delineated and autonomous, of a different species.
—Vladimir Nabokov, “Father’s Butterflies”
My wife departed on the day I began in earnest my Critical Insect Studies. Before this date, I had only jotted down a few thoughts and titles, cut and pasted a few class papers, nothing more, but I was sure, as much as I had ever been sure of anything, basking in my certainty like an oiled blonde in Cannes, that I had found, at age twenty-seven, the subject on whose wings my career would soar from campus to campus, lecture hall to lecture hall around the globe, sometimes Sam coming along, though increasingly, I imagined, taken up with his own concerns. Perhaps we would have had children by then, or new avatars, I didn’t know, or perhaps we would have drifted apart, he wanting nothing to do with me or my fame. Read More
by George Kalogeris
It must be the shade that draws them. Or else the grass.
And it seems they always alight away from their flocks,
Alone. It’s so quiet here you can’t help but hear
Their talons clink as they hop from headstone to headstone.
Their sharp, inquisitive beaks cast quizzical glances.
The lawn is mown. The gate is always open.
The names engraved on the stones, and the uplifting words
Below the names, are lapidary as ever.
But almost never even a chirp from the birds,
Let alone a wild shriek, as they perch on a tomb.
And then they fly away, looking as if
They couldn’t remember why it was they came—
But were doing what our souls are supposed to do
On the day we die, if the birds could read the words.
by Daiva Markelis
Featured art: Two Camels by John Frederick Lewis
We came across the camels every time we picnicked that merciless autumn, huge herds grazing on sparse vegetation. Camel comes from jamal, the Arabic root word for beauty. From a distance they did look lovely, their curvy silhouettes mimicking the contours of the dunes. Up close, however, they seemed slightly ridiculous, like bad female impersonators, batting their Scarlet O’Hara lashes to keep the sand out of their eyes, their long necks sloping towards us, then coyly withdrawing. Read More
by Kathleen Radigan
Featured Art: Abstraction on Concrete by Howard Dearstyne
In the garden I cup a hand
before you, strain my wrist,
willing you to perch.
A nearby woman grips her cane.
“Young lady. If you touch them,
Born again from a gauze
coffin, you’re blackwinged,
fragile on a wax leaf. Read More
by Melissa Cistaro
Featured art: A Farm in Brittany by Paul Gauguin
It’s a nice place to visit my mom, a lot better than the last one. I get to stay for almost a week and even be here for my tenth birthday. There’s a bed with a blue quilt, a shelf piled high with boxes of puzzles and the scent of my mom’s L’Air du Temps perfume drifting down the hallway. She lives on this dairy farm with 180 cows and her new boyfriend, Roger Short. One of the first things she mentioned about Roger is that he’s colorblind. She says he can’t see how horrible the wall-to-wall chartreuse carpet looks in his house—in fact he can’t see the color green at all. I think that’s a shame, because there are green fields like patchwork for miles around his farm. But then again, I suppose that being colorblind is just fine for Roger since he only raises black-and-white cows. Read More
by Janice N. Harrington
Featured Art: Crows in a Tree by Charles François Daubigny
Circling above bare limbs, like Dalí’s wild and articulate capes,
black wings undulate. Raucous hundreds settle and splat
their stench. A murder of crows, a give-a-fuck mob,
stirs the air above ash and oak and hackberry, milling
and loud with news: day heralds, unwelcomed Cassandras.
Dawn light pinched by a crow’s beak, pieces of light falling
everywhere, bright meat that the crow pecks, strips away.
The crows know my neighbor’s face. Knowledgeable birds,
they know the way I hurry each morning, the way my eyes try
to read their dark signs: articulate smoke, curtains
of a confession booth. Blessing? Pardon? Mercy?
The stories say that crows suffer scorched wings, that they
are cursed for stealing from the gods. But the stories, as always, err,
wind-running, wings wide, a-glide on a slide of air,
black bodies, bituminous-black, cosmos-black rising to soar.
There is no damnation in their dizzying speed, the break-wing
improvisations of their flight. God–blessed and black,
their sharp notes strike my skull like hailstones or chunks
of sky, dark bodies that lift my eyes and scorn gravity, a lesser law.
By Susan Allison
The thing about good living
is that it happens, despite
plotting and planning, it happens
contrary to all devices. It happens
when you are renting the only room
you can afford and you somehow
catch the way the light is coming through
the broken dirty windows.
The door is open
and the wind blows in like balm.
It’s warm and you see the colors of the
faded gray frame of the door
against the rust-colored leaves
in the small patch of jungle
down by the alley.
The good life
comes through your eyes
and your ears and your skin,
the way a wild animal comes at you
when it is just curious.