Write About an Animal



Mary the Drug Addict
Jim Harrison, Songs of Unreason.

Mary, spayed early so a virgin like her ancient namesake, is a drug addict. She was stomped on as a puppy by an angry little girl and thus a lifetime of spinal problems. Now an old woman she waits for her pain pills every day and then she's a merry animal. Up until a few years back she'd run much farther than her Lab sister until she was a tiny black peppercorn in the alfalfa field. She walks much closer now turning to check if I'm following along. She's and English cocker and sniffs the ground then pauses to meditate on the scent. To understand Mary we have to descend into the cellar, the foundation of our being, the animal bodies we largely ignore. She sleeps a lot, eats kibble without interest and craves meat tidbits with the pleasure making her wiggle. Outdoors, her eyes wide to the open she acts with exuberance, our lost birthright. Like all beautiful women she has become beautifully homely. In the evening I lift her onto the couch despite her brush with a skunk, and we speak a bone-deep language without nouns and verbs, a creature-language skin to skin.



The Colonel
Carolyn Forche

WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck themselves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.

                                                                                    May 1978




Pressed Fast
by Bill Scheffel

I have stayed with two of my cat-loving friends in the last few months and they reawakened my cat-loving genes. In Istanbul I became one of the people who stops to pet or feed the legendary homeless cats there, which are also legion. They fall into two camps: the skittish who flee and the unflinching who receive your touch. These latter cats are so hungry for affection or find it so unusual or both that they behave like a sprung mouse-trap: thrust themselves toward you, stare you in the eye, press fast and hard against your hand and forearm. Harder than a cat ever has.




Aardvark with the monkeys in your hair,

aardvark that languishes on the edges of the margins where the margin walker


aardvark that you are the sky,

sunken chested aardvark of the dark earth of the aardvark gone asleep,

aardvark of the bloody teeth that fall from bloody trees,

aardvark of the sea spray that is green,

of the sea light in the afternoon with rain,

aardvark towards the aardvark running towards the aardvark towards the gun,

gunshot wounds of aardvarks and of pepsi cans and teeth,

aardvark of the carnivals,

aardvark of the carnivores,

aardvark of the simple minded men with big heads on the plains,

great duende of the aardvark,

lesser duende of the aardvark,

aardvark of the wood grouse that is the aardvark of the loon,

abraham lincoln of the aardvark,

totem animal that is the aardvark wrapped inside the aardvark in alarm clocks

late at night,

aardvark of the summer of t.v. inside the basement of the twilight of the past,

aardvark that eats men,

aardvark that is parent to the cow,

aardvark made of thigh bones built in angles cooked with bells,


factually deflected,

beside the bigger of the trees,

aardvark of the quick and also aardvark of the dead,

aardvark that falls outside of airplanes towards the icy sky at night,

screaming aardvark,

head bent to the wind,

aardvark of the sky turned upside down,

maker of the starlings that the aardvark tends to be,

vociferous drunken aardvark that is cast out into time,

beneath the coral,

made of pearls, aardvark of the aardvarks of the aardvark who is flawed,

aardvark made of milk and cooked in tamarind with lambs,

aardvark redolent of rain,

aardvark redolent of thunder,

aardvark redolent of lizards and the claws of things and men,

aardvark running into spirals toward the ships,

ship aardvarks,


unleashed like dogs beside the sea,

of birds as auguries of what the aardvark comes to be,

of the red grain of the wheat fields near the bluish aardvark sky,

of the corn rows of the love of aardvark that is like unto the love beside the lamb,

of the hotel rooms of aardvarks that are filled with aardvarks arching as to fly,

aardvarks that abound,


containing heat,

the candle in the aardvark with its axis on its head,

aardvark in the place where aardvarks breed,




circular, shooting widely through the sky at night,

the burning rocks of aardvarks that connect to aardvarks that connect up to the rain,

the train ride of the aardvark that is where the aardvark is,

assured, awake, and like an aardvark not shaped like a ball,

the aardvark in a sphere of light,

finally, harmonious,

without disgust, disguised not as the donuts nor the cockroaches nor planes,

this, aardvark,

single simple aardvark dressed in light,

untouched by what the aardvark is,

with artichokes,


arcing as the turkey does

with power in its wings,

of the aardvark in its faithfulness,


exaggerated, with the element of sun beams

that the elements of aardvark

in its glory yet will be,

break light of the aardvark

in its dance

that in its dance

the numened aardvark brings.


Aardvark (Afrikaans for "earth pig"), common name for a burrowing, ant-eating mammal. The aardvark is found throughout much of Africa, from the southern part of Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope. A primarily nocturnal animal, it lives in burrows and feeds on ants and termites, occasionally eating other insects, the fat mouse, and a species of wild ground cucumber.

The aardvark is up to 2.3 m (7.5 ft) long, including the fleshy, tapering tail, which it uses to throw earth backward when it burrows. It has an arched back, a tubular snout, and large, upright ears. The aardvark uses its specialized, chisel-shaped claws to break open the hard clay of termite nests; then it uses its sticky tongue to capture the insects in the nest. Unlike the animals known as anteaters, which are toothless, the aardvark has 20 cylindrical, rootless teeth that grow continually throughout its lifetime.

The female gives birth to one or occasionally two offspring, which can dig their own burrows at the age of six months. Although timid, the aardvark will fight when it cannot flee or burrow to safety; it defends itself with its powerful claws or by striking with its tail or shoulders.

Scientific classification: The aardvark makes up the order Tubulidentata. It is classified as Orycteropus afer.





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cliché |klēˈSHā kli-, kli-, ˈklēˌSHā | (also cliche) noun

1. A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought: the old cliché “one man's meat is another man's poison.”

2. A very predictable or unoriginal thing or person: each building is a mishmash of tired clichés.

ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: French, past participle (used as a noun) of clicher ‘to stereotype.’


Avoid cliches - Generally, clichés are fine when used as speech in the dialog of characters, but otherwise they suck the energy out of a sentence. Of course there are exceptions and sometimes a seeming cliche is arguable, but in general, and at their worst, clichés don't express luminous details, require minimal to no esthetic effort to find, and dull the mind of the reader.

Allen Ginsberg has slogans that help us undersand and avoid clichés. One is simply, "Make it new."

In these sentences Ginsberg discusses one the most well-known critigues of America, but manages to make the language fresh and thus avoid not only cliche but mere editorializing of the abstract.

The mistake made in America is persons accumulate more and more dead matter, machinery, possessions and rugs and fact information at the expense of what really counts as more: feeling, good feeling, sex feeling, tenderness feeling, mutual feeling. You own twice as much rug if you're twice as aware of the rug.