Our featured publication for March is Humanagerie, an anthology edited by Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley, published by Eibonvale Press.
Inspired by notions of the animalistic, Humanagerie is a vivid exploration of the nebulous intersection of human and beast. From cities to wilderness, buildings to burrows, and coastlines to fish-tanks, these thirty-two poems and thirteen short stories explore emergence and existence, survival and self-mythology, and the liminal hinterland between humanity and animality.
Sorry if I fling zoos at you, and when I do,
forelegs spread, the bony tufts of giraffe heads
rip up kitchen tiles, elongations of neck vertebrae
swinging hard and fast like a blotchy orange 5-iron.
You should probably duck when lobbed elephants swirl
through the living room’s low-watt sky, Zeppelins deflating,
trunks dangling like loose grey guy-ropes, brushing the blinds.
And about the single-horned rhinos and hippos, yes, I know:
all that stomping, stampeding, at some small thing you say,
the mud-soaked noses, nostrils flaring up like fireplaces,
odd-toed ungulates charging into your hell-of-a-day,
unleashing the fury of a fenced and caged species,
the paying visitors peering and gaping, leaning in
to watch us both, not breeding here in captivity.
Solace drove me to this place,
its green hollows,
searching again for your form, love,
for it has been seven years –
billy-witch, bewitcher, solstice creeper,
I went to the road, its ranks of shimmering carmine,
looking for you at the edges of belief –
you, a Da Vinci sketch
testing the limits of flight
ahead of your time
or back with the dinosaur brutes,
out of this world of nets and cables and glare.
I longed for you to cross my palm,
scarab – smooth as a knee cap,
complicated as a music box
held together with tiny pinions,
the intricate pins and tucks
of your mechanics
working the unforgiving air –
I took you apart in my mind, found nothing
but a mandible like a wishbone,
one serrated, iconic antler
of bravado, lost bravado.
I keep it for my rising son,
our last mid-summer walks,
his tender voice breaking in the dusk.
The larvae of the stag beetle, which is becoming increasingly rare, lives in the soil for seven years before it emerges into a fully-grown adult
And Then I Was a Sheep
and really, what a treat to find myself
among these friend-shaped clouds or cloud-shaped friends
who breathe, who bleat, these lovely bits of meat
on legs, who take me as something to smell
and imitate. How nice it was to wake
and sing myself, to flounce and fling myself
down hillsides someone turned to trampolines
quite suddenly. While others keep their snouts
steadfastly to the ground I blink, I count
my gifts: this four-wheel drive and this cuisine
that grows, the way that I can sigh and mean
that nature is my playground, baby. True,
the farmer, shearing, has looked into my eyes
a little longer than I’d like, as if
he’s sussed, he’s twigged, and yes, the sheepdog nips
more keenly at my ankles than the others’,
but on the whole, I’ve found, it’s easy really
to blend right in, to not stand out. Sometimes,
I miss the feel of the settee beneath me,
a glass of something good, but all in all
I wouldn’t go back if I could. I’m less
lonely than I was when I was human,
the world’s less cold, now that my winter coat
is part of me, and what I really like
are moonlit nights: us lot, the whole, the flock,
how we all cwtch together in this field,
one living mass of white, one fluffy cloud,
the awesome power of our communal brains –
as if we’d turned the field into the sky,
like we could think it now, and it would rain.
cwtch cuddle or hug
She wishes not to be a jellyfish:
a lightbulb always flicked on,
in tangled strands.
Not to have this heavy head
she can only hold up
in the dark
Not to flounder
on dry land:
Not to be
this plucked eye,
“Do not touch me.
Please, do not
Buck and Doe
Little fleecy feet – velvet lucky paws dotty-dabble
moontide grass, hippey-skip, belly fuzzy-plump
from all the nibbling. Cowslip, comfrey. Busy teeth,
gnawy-gnash on root an’ stump, tasty tubers relished down
in tiny gullet swallows, sweet with sugar juice.
My baby coney-kins, my leveret kith – tufty bullets
quatting in the grass, long and blowy, perfect for this game
of hidey-seek. Coloured mud like groundling truffles,
otter brown, gravel grey, knobby flash of banderole behind,
linty white. Digging thigh-bones muscled strong, footing
on the earth with knock-knocks – thumpy-stamp for danger.
Mealy unders richly warmed with down, woolsome-snug and kittened
in the stomach of our nest, our darkling womb, our holey safe place
tatted cosy-soft with dandie grasses. Elder-rabbits sage us
with fine words. Beware the silver necklaces of snares an’ keep
away from Pink Eye with his winking froth of mixie tears.
Buck an’ doe, dancing under wedding skies, kissing
clefty mouths together – mothers innards full of litter dreams,
an’ hope for all her sweetly nipples hung with babbies,
sucking rich an’ growing hoppish strong, foxing clever.
They make their music – open up the mallow flesh
inside their throats, slither music round their teeth.
Un-soundable to human ear but heard by cloud
and earth – this creature-sing, the joy in field and sky.
the taste of welter-song turf-spun rich upon our tongues.
Humanagerie contains both poetry and short fiction, and is available to purchase in either hardback or paperback directly from Eibonvale Press: