All About Animals: Secondary Teachers: Poetry

Choosing poetry that young people will be absorbed by is not always easy. But animal issues tend to engage the minds and emotions of young people. While some poems tackle moral issues such as docking the tails of dogs and the live export of animals, others are pure fun. We hope that you will enjoy our selection of poetry and that it will lead to some lively discussions in the classroom!

The Fish Are All Sick
Anne Stevenson

The fish are all sick, the great whales are dead,
The villages stranded in stone on the coast,
Ornamental, like pearls on the fringe of a coat.
Sea men, who knew what the ocean did,
Turned their low houses away from the surf.
But new men who come to be rural and safe
Add big glass views and begonia beds.
Water keeps to itself.
White lip after lip
Curls to a close on the littered beach.
Something is sicker and blacker then fish.
And closing its grip, and closing its grip.

Alan Jackson

the scene of the crime
was a goldfish bowl
goldfish were kept
in the bowl at the time:

that was the scene
and that was the crime

From The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn
Andrew Marvell

The wanton troopers riding by
Have shot my fawn and it will die.
Ungentle men! They cannot thrive
To kill thee. Thou ne’er didst, alive,
Them any harm; alas, nor could
Thy death yet do them any good …

It is a wondrous thing how fleet
‘Twas on those silver feet;
With what a pretty skipping grace
It oft would challenge me the race;
And, when’t had left me far away,
‘Twould stay, and run again, and stay;
For it was nimbler much than hinds,
And trod as if on the four winds.

The Dead Sparrow
William Cartwright

Tell me not of joy; there’s none,
Now my little Sparrow’s gone:
He, just as you,
Would try and woo,
He would chirp and flatter me;
He would hang the wing awhile –
Till at length he saw me smile
Lord. How sullen he would be!

He would catch a crumb, and then
Sporting, let it go agen;
He from my lip
Would moisture sip;
He would from my trencher feed;
Then would hop, and then would run,
And cry Philip when he’d done.
O! whose heart can choose but bleed?

O how eager he would fight,
And ne’er hurt, though he did bite.
No morn did pass
But on my glass
He would sit, and mark and do
What I did – now ruffle all
His feathers o’er, now let ’em fall;
And then straightaway sleek them too.
Whence will Cupid get his darts
Feathered now to pierce our hearts?
A wound he may
Not, Love, convey,
Now this faithful bird is gone;
O let mournful turtles join
With loving red-breasts, and combine
To sing dirges o’er his stone!

The Red Cockatoo
Po Chü-I

Sent as a present from Annam –
A red cockatoo.
Coloured like the peach-tree blossom,
Speaking with the speech of men.
And they did to it what is always done
To the learned and eloquent.
They took a cage with stout bars
And shut it up inside.

The Turkey
Richard Digance

Turkeys don’t like Christmas,
which may come as no surprise.
They say why don’t human beings
pick on people their own size.
To sit beside potatoes
in an oven can’t be fun,
so a turkey is quite justified
to feel he’s being done.

In the Case of Lobsters
Petra Von Morstein

There are
2 methods some put
the live lobster
in boiling
water for the best
with a microphone
you can hear screams
of pain if
in the case of lobsters
one can speak of such a thing
as pain

for humanitarian reasons
put it in cold
then bring to the boil

A Beetle Called Derek
Benjamin Zephaniah

There was once a beetle called Derek
Who lived in a forest on Earth
And this little beetle called Derek
Was really attracted to dirt,
She did not carry no weapons
Except what she naturally got
She did not have no possessions
But she could look after her lot.

The forest protected our Derek
Predators came and they went,
This was no reason to panic
Cause this was with Nature’s consent,
She was related to Wind and Fire
A sister of necessity,
She was related to Earth and Water
A distant cousin to me.
Doctors could not work out Derek
Derek had secrets she kept
Then came the white coated bandits
Scientists seeking all they could get,
Her home was robbed to make paper
And that got the climate upset,
Cows were grazed to make burgers
The cows never made a profit!!

Derek was taken for granted
By selfish non-beetle people,
Some supporters of Derek demanded
An end to what we called Evil,
Handouts could not solve the problem alone
So I called out the Eco-Police,
But we could not win the fight on our own
Now Derek my friend is deceased.

There once was a beetle called Derek
Who lived in a forest on Earth,
Nobody knew where she came from
A kind of mysterious birth,
I built a memorial to Derek
Hoping that it may be seen,
I hope when I die I’ll see Derek,
In a heaven organic and green.

Talking Turkeys!!
Benjamin Zephaniah

Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
Cos turkeys jus wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don’t eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate an not on yu plate
Say, Yo! Turkey, I’m on your side.

I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys
Dey all hav a right to a life,
Not to be caged up and genetically made up
By any farmer an his wife.

Turkeys jus wanna play reggae
Turkeys jus wanna hip-hop
Can yu imagine a nice young turkey saying,
‘I cannot wait for de chop’?
Turkeys like getting presents, dey wanna watch christmas tv,
Turkeys hav brains an turkeys feel pain
In many ways like yu an me.

I once knew a turkey called Turkey
He said ‘Benji explain to me please,
Who put de turkey in christmas
An what happens to Christmas trees?
I said, ‘I am not too sure turkey
But it’s got nothing to do wid Christ Mass
Humans get greedy an waste more dan need be
An business men mek loadsa cash.’

Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
Invite dem indoors fe sum greens
Let dem eat cake an let dem partake
In a plate of organic grown beans,
Be nice to yu turkey dis christmas
An spare dem de cut of de knife,
Join Turkeys United an dey’ll be delighted
An yu will mek new friends ‘FOR LIFE’

Take One Home For The Kiddies
Philip Larkin

On shallow straw, in shadeless glass,
Huddled by empty bowls, they sleep:
No dark, no dam, no earth, nor grass –
Mam, get us one of them to keep.

Living toys are something novel,
But it soon wears off somehow.
Fetch the shoebox, fetch the shovel –
Mam, we’re playing funerals now.

The Fly
William Blake

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 and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath;
And the want of thought is death;

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

Spent Cows In The Slow Paddock
Coral Hull

Where are those old girls walking to? they are the dreariest cows I’ve ever seen, their legs red raw and udders stretched into monstrosity, from the bright tit gripping machinery, I can chose to see the world in another way, I can tilt my cheek and lift my eyes above their own, I can remember a world in which I used to be saved from pain, but I cannot see the world that way again, because I have seen the haggard dairy cows, standing in the paddocks outside the Dandenong knackery, their udders bleeding and unmilked, the absent calves as we competed for the milk and won, the humiliation beneath the pain, and these “spent” mothers, in single file in a single field with their unmilked udders, the open sores on their backs like someone had thrown some mince up there, like they had slapped it on like mud, a cow with her tail chopped off so that it wriggled like the stump, she was haughty, old and stiff in the hindquarters, her back legs jammed like sticks into dirt, as she pushed them in, so that they popped back up still unhealed, spent cows in the slow paddock, the dairy herd have formed their final hierarchies, I say, she’s had enough, and could die just now but she just doesn’t know how to, on my long walks with weariness, I have felt their triangular joints that prop up the sagging skin, like it’s already drying into leather, we can’t wait to get the skin off them, I saw the old cows walk in single file across the muddy paddock, their weariness settled into sunset, until the fence stopped them dead in their tracks, and a pink band of cloud twisted into the evening sky, the slaughterhouse in shadows as it should be, and all those bright days and nights, of the Friesians and the vivid blacks and whites, it is a horrible thing to cry softly for these old spent cows filling in time, years squeezed out like excess water, the silver tears that slide like oil, into the pond of effluent beneath the swans and their cygnets, even on a breezeless day the water will move the swan, the mirror image sliding into form like a paper boat into a drain, the effluent treatment works by the slaughterhouse paddock, a family of swans travelling down it, I ingest the chemicals before I can name them, take what little light is left and hang onto it here, it’s the reflection of all that oil along all that water, I am dipping into it with the oars of a hollow boat, by a row of cows I can barely remember, all living in the sewerage of our creation, swans are mournful at the best of times, but even now there can be beautiful things never imagined, like silver waste speckled onto fluffy grey cygnets, where the damage is complete, by the old industry cows in the waterlogged paddock.

The Bears Have Gone Into Hibernation
Coral Hull

a threatened black bear cub runs quickly up a tree by hugging it, cat style, the mother climbs as well, aspens are the getaway trees, in aspen groves black scratches scar wood and bark, vertical markings at the base are territorial warnings, horizontal or slanting marks that go up the trees are caused by rapid ascents, silent, vocal when agitated, mostly the bear is trying to get away, to do foresty things, to eat the berries, grunt and growl, the cubs cry out to their mothers like human babies, bears make a purring sound when content, when a bear is content so is the valley, the forests humming with contented black bears, dropped branches are growing sweet fruits, the sun warms dark hides, big pads and hips move through fruit bearing flowers, there are abundant berries for flower-eaters, after digesting twenty thousand calories a day during summer’s ending the giant bears sleep, it is late summer, the sun goes further and further back behind the trees, until the branches stand in the skin on their own, naked, the sun sinking so low it barely crawls up the bark, when that cold weather hits in early November, the bears move up the slopes fat as a foothill, to sub alpine elevations, where the snow will be deeper, deep and powdery, an expert at inducing the long white sleep, snow is good insulation, sufficient to keep the den temperature only a few degrees below freezing, in the coldest winter, cubs have been born like puppies, during the dormant winter period while the mother hibernates, the birth is a soft entry into the snow, pink noses and small climbs onto the mother’s lumbering body and snow buried branches, the bears burrow in a metre of two, the coldest weather has arrived, the time when the green blue sky is dominated by branches, frozen mountains and a sun the size of a coin, the pale lamp shines goldly out or silver, sending us its low low warmth, each bear digs out a simple shelter, often amongst boulders under an overhanging bank, or among the snowy roots of a wind thrown tree, if the soil is hard frozen and the rocks are frozen into it, so that they don’t detach, so that you cannot kick them out with your boot or scratch them out with your nails, then it is time to leave the earth to freeze, and to sleep for a long time with the great bears, the bear may pile up brush and fallen trees and hibernate in it, a heart rate is slowing down in the mountain ranges, a body temperature is lowering itself into peace, follow the bear that is heavy with rest and the dull light of the sky into dormancy, into the time when the great scratch marks on the trees are filled with ice, the silent paths and the sky is flightless, the pathways of the sky are empty of birds, the last ravens calling out the snow then flying through it, wings like windscreen wipers at regular intervals, this land is long frozen and waiting for meltwaters, the bear’s nose is thinking snow.

The New Age Abattoir
Coral Hull

one of the heifers in the transportation truck
received a tarot card reading & the death card
came up/
not a negative card by any means but
one signifying great changes in her life/

her boy calf taurus capricorn rising is bellowing
in a veal factory/
his four gangling legs broken
chiropractically snapped at the waist/
put in an
organic jarrah packing crate/ (sustainable logging
a rose quartz crystal attached to each
broken joint for healing of the heart chakra/

meanwhile the heifer is scorched on the rump
with her sunsign & numerological chart/

cows are led from the truck & into the slaughter
according to the brightness of their individual
electric lights are shaded lavender/
& a flower essence – aspen: for fear & foreboding
of the future/ is given to each frothing muzzle
with a dropper/
& the sacred chainsaw is
called excalibur/
& each worker is wearing the
pentacle (right side up of course) & they
never cut anti clockwise/
there is no need
for a guru/ there is individual freedom/ the
manager boycotts battery eggs for ethical
& before the smashing of her forehead/
we look into her long lashed eyes as deeply as
we can: for the universal teaching of love &
but there is not much time/ now
for some crimson colour therapy for the workers/
as we all strike her dead into an out of body
or perhaps she is abducted by
guardian angels in u.f.o.s/ how can we know?/

all the while the song of the humpback whale is
gently freeing its oceans over the new age
abattoir p.a. system/
workers have been found to
be less stressed whilst this is playing & have
even brought in potplants for the tea room/

the cow’s heavenly body (still kicking) is dragged
upwards on the hook/ her neck split open she cannot
hold in air & blood/
& a shout from the workers:
release yourself to the universal lifeforce!/

for the wet rebirth her skin is steamed off/ we
inject in some royal jelly & some herbalife/

tonight we celebrate her death & chew her fat
& digest her corpse/ knowing we are at one with
her & that she is at peace/
& for the ones left
behind: a nice massage in essential oils to ease
their distress

Pain Free
Kim Palmer

Longing for freedom,
Longing for love,
Longing for an angel above,
Take me, heal me, free me,
I’d never want you to be me.
What is this word they use?
If this is it, then I don’t need it!
Left to shiver, left lonely to cry,
Waiting for my time to die.
I’ve heard the others before me and want my turn to come and go,
But quickly please, the others were too slow.
If this is karma, please explain …
Does anyone deserve this kind of PAIN?
On the table, I’m number 964,
Is this all I’m good for?
My suffering,
Your humanity and God ignore?!
Get this over quick! It hurts!
Release me,
Let me go.
Angel of death be kind to me,
Let your science be rid of me …
I am the beagle (waggy tail no more!)
Caged, ready for “duty”, number 964.