All of God's creatures have rights, a fact that most people don't seem to recognize.
This includes both human and non-human animals, but not all of them can speak for themselves.
From Vegan Handbook - Dedicated to Jason, who at a very young age, in
farm country and never having heard of vegetarianism, refused to ever eat
meat again when he was told where it came from after losing his treasured
calf to the slaughterhouse. This poem may be reprinted at any time
by anyone, without permission.
Eastern kids on a college field course out west
Dropped by two's in barren sagebrush country.
August heat and the ugliness of isolated oil derricks sap my strength
Until we've walked to where no outward signs of man's intrusions are.
Our assignment is to map the geologic beds exposed in rock outcroppings.
We find a fine wall of endless layers,
But I can't tell which kind of rock is which,
And grouping them by ancient time periods seems an impossible task.
So I spend the afternoon half-heartedly drawing what I see for later interpretation.
Discouraged by not knowing what I'm doing,
Gritty with dusty sweat,
Longing for shelter from unrelenting sun,
I finally reach the top of a cliff.
Having decided that what I've drawn will have to do,
I shed the false scientific skin encumbrancing me,
And rest free on bluffs edge
To absorb what's real about the place.
As I breathe in things that restore my sanity,
I notice that I'm sitting near a rattler
Sunning himself on diamondbacked rock.
My heart jumps inside me —
I'd had two hopes for this trip —
To hear coyotes calling
And to meet a rattlesnake.
I want to share the moment,
And stand hollering into heavy heat
For a partner I haven't seen in hours.
After some time he appears,
Face fresh from geologic work he understands;
He pronounces the snake not a rattler because it isn't rattling.
My pocket guide to snakes is not in my- pocket,
But I know there's one sure proof—
With a stick I nudge our sleepy subject,
"Won't you rattle for us, please?"
He only rearranges himself tolerantly
Like an uncle wolf under attack by ear-chewing cubs —
No amount of repeated botherings will make him angry or afraid.
At last he slithers a few feet to the dubious protection of a nearby scrawny sagebrush—
Two or three scraggly branches, not enough to make a shadow,
And surely not sufficient to foil my pesterings.
One can almost hear a tired "Oh, all right" in the rattle when it finally sounds,
Devoid as it is of aggression or fear —
Not even our whooping dance of exuberant joy
Disturbs our indulgent snake friend.
We sit with him (or her) a long silent while,
Savoring the acquaintance of a being whose possession of deadly power does not pre- determine his use of it,
Our minds empty of thoughts,
The whole of us full of an unconscious knowing
That rock and snake and sky and we
The author was a pre-vet student, but dropped out of school the week before having to watch the upperclassmen practice on living animals. Most of her poems are auto-biographical.
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