Mark Cunningham

               Réunion Harrier

A Circus maillardi Réunion Harrier
thinks, Maybe I should make up
to all the frogs and lizards I’ve bothered
and then everybody would be
glad to see me again and they’d stop
shouting “duck!” when I showed up.

A Mydaus javanensis sunda Sunda Stink
Badger tells itself, If I stopped living
a lie and admitted that I was really
not even closely related to real badgers
but that I was instead an Old World
relative to skunks, maybe everybody
wouldn’t turn their snouts up
at me and I wouldn’t have to skulk
around at night and eat worms.

A Culex pipiens Northern House Mosquito
considers, Maybe my blood-sucking greedy
behavior guarantees by some law of cause
and effect that I’ll meet my end by violence,
so if I pipe down a little and become more
of a quietist, I’ll live a longer and better life.

A Conus textile Cloth of Gold Sea Snail mulls,
If I stop my passive-aggressive, well mostly
aggressive, habit of using my beautiful
shell pattern to luring people into picking me up
and if I take it easy with my toxoglossan
radula venomous harpoon, maybe
I won’t end up as a decoration on a window sill.

A Pterophyllum altum Altum Angelfish
reminds itself, Relax: no need
to be rigid and so set in your ways:
the Friedmann-Lemaître-Robertson-Walker
metric gives an exact solution to the field
equations of Albert Einstein’s (1879-1955 CE)
Theory of General Relativity: it shows
that the universe is homogeneous, isotropic,
expanding or contracting, and that
it’s path-connected but not necessarily
simply connected: the way is disjointed,
so loosen up and be a little more flexible. 

               John Lennon

John Lennon (1940-1980 CE) sings
“I am the walrus,”
and makes a classic, but an Odobenus
rosmaris Walrus sings,
“I am John Lennon,”
and a glass model of a Cyanea capillata
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish made by
Leopold (1822-1895 CE) and Rudolf (1857-
1939 CE) Blaschka growls to itself,
That’s just arrogant.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955 CE) finishes
“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,”
and a Turdus merula Common Blackbird
says, “I don’t even know what Wallace
Stevens looks like, and, besides,
he’s full of crap,” and a taxidermized
Colaptes auratus Northern Flicker
tries not to show that it’s thinking,
That’s just ignorant.

Little Jimmy Dickens (1920-2015 CE) hums
“May the Bluebird of Happiness Fly Up
Your Nose,” and a Sialia sialis Eastern Bluebird
says, “Sounds like something else has been
flying up his nose,” and a fossilized
Triceratops horridus Triceratops
can’t get the thought that’s just
jealousy out of its skull.

In Columbia Records 30th Street Studio
in New York City, Miles Davis (1926-1991 CE)
blows the last note for his album Kind
of Blue (1959 CE) and a Passerina cyanea
Indigo Bunting passing by thinks,
I’m bluer than that, and I feel fine,
and Louis-Jacques-Mandè-Daguerre
(1787-1851 CE) posing for a daguerreotype
taken by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot (1801-
1881 CE) thinks, That makes me happy,
but I have to hold still and keep a straight face. 


An Alexandrium fundyense Dinoflagellate
reproducing itself says, I feel good
about this: I’m maximizing my potential
and extending my influence:
no wonder a swarm of us (and earthquakes
and stars, big stuff!) is called a bloom.

A Bradysia impatiens Dark-winged Fungus
Gnat drifting off by itself says,
The same old cycle all the time:
it’s exhausting and there’s so many of us
that no one would miss me if I were gone:
no wonder a swarm of us is called a ghost. 

               African Forest Elephant

A Loxodonta cyclotis African Forest
Elephant asks, What’s that swishing?
I don’t see anything. Is a storm coming?
A Galleria mellonella Giant Wax Moth
says, Relax. It’s only the moon
rising through the trees to be a nightlight.

A Galago Senegalensis Senegal Bushbaby
asks, What’s that rustle, pause, rustle?
Are some Pan troglodytes versus West
African Chimpanzees sneaking up on me
with their home-made wood spears?
And the Giant Wax Moths says,
Calm down. It’s only a Lemniscomys
linius Senegal One-striped
Grass Mouse turning over in its nest.

A Caracal caracal Caracal asks, What’s
that steady shifting rustle? Everything
looks still. And the Giant Wax Moth
says, Hold steady. It’s only a Lumbricus
rebellus Red Earthworm in India working
through soil loose enough to burrow in
and moist enough to allow gas
exchange so the world will continue.

A Myotis lucifugus Little Brown Bat
asks, What’s that cracking, no, it’s more
like a crinkling, a clicking, or no. . . .
And the Giant Wax Moth says, I’ve told
you, remember? It’s only some magnesium
in Alaska helping to form Mystic Merlinite
Indigo Gabbro, a large, coarse-grained igneous
rock that helps bring clear messages into
your dreams and meditations. Just breathe. 

               White-lip Oyster

Pinctada maxima White-lip Oyster
may you bring good fortune
at the bottom of the sea
and on the reverse side
of the Philippine 1,000 peso bill.

Tivela Stultorum Pismo Clam.
Sleep tight
so you won’t be stultified tomorrow.

Neverita didyma Bladder Moon Snail.
May you stay snug in your shell
with its half-moon aperture,
and not wake up
and have to go to the bathroom.

Caprella bathytatos Skeleton Shrimp.
May the Macroregonia macrochira
Spider Crab whose mouthparts
you live on not swallow
the slender curve of your body—
and goodnight Macroregonia macrochira
Spider Crab. May the lava floor
keep you from catching a chill.

Chauliodus macouni Pacific Viperfish.
May no predators spot your charcoal
body as you go like a dream from
the abyssal depths to within 200 meters
of the surface and back again.

Mark Cunningham has two books out from Otoliths (80 Beetles and Helicotremors) as well as a chapbook (Fail Lure). His most recent book, Future Words, is available as a free PDF from if p then q. After 15 years of working through publishers, he is getting ready to publish his material himself. sort/quantum should be available soon, probably from Lulu.
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