A World Animal Day Poem

A World Animal Day Poem

ILCW member Susan Richardson (UK) is
World Animal Day’s poet-in-residence and was specially-commissioned to write the following poem for World Animal Day 2016. Her poem focuses on the critical global issue of ocean debris and the injuries/deaths suffered by marine creatures, including leatherback turtles, when they become entangled in discarded fishing nets (known as ghost gear) or ingest plastic rubbish that they mistake for prey. At the bottom of the page you can click on the link to hear Susan reciting Waste.


By Susan Richardson,
ILCW member (UK)

1. Net

The Ghost of Fishing Past has failed

to fade.

It will haunt degradable dreams

for decade after leathery decade.

The Ghost of Fishing Present

is not the one doing the moaning.

What you hear is the sound

of a thousand gouged flippers.

Mangled skin. Tangled necks.

Flexible shells yelling for protection.

The Ghost of Fishing Yet to Come

nets every ocean current and tide.

Entire gyres are trapped.

Waves writhe and thrash

as the sea sinks

to the bottom of itself.

2. Bag

Her prey migrates

from chip shop

and Tesco

from High Street

and suburb from

windgust and

gutter from

fly-tip and

river from

storm drain

and foreshore

from shallows

and deeps

till it reaches

the pelagic zone,

her home

in the open sea.

As it floats

past, she grabs

it, drags it

down her

barbed throat,

adds it to

a gut already

stuffed with



near to

the surface,

genuine jellyfish

themselves ingest

plastic plankton.

You can also listen to Susan reciting her
wonderful poem.



for Paul Shepard

By ILCW Member Elizabeth Herron (USA)

Even cold erodes, and the ice
that held itself in glacial cleaving
grows eager to lie down in the sea
where the great bears will finally sleep, sliding quietly into the depths.
Their bones roll the bottom
in layers of darkness. What is left
besides light descending
into blue shadows, the billowing
curtains of salt, the slow heft of the sea?
How can we let what is lost
settle of its own sacred weight
into the secret grief, the emptiness
we mistake for something missing
in ourselves?

Elizabeth Herron’s poem was previously published in: Canary
A Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisi
Canary is a literary journal that explores one’s engagement with the natural world. It is based on the premise that the literary arts can provide an understanding that humans are part of an integrated system. Their theme is the environmental crisis and the losses of species and habitat as a result of this ongoing disaster. Their mission is to deepen awareness of the environment and enrich the well-being of the individual and in turn society as a whole.

The War on Trees

By ILCW member (USA) Elizabeth Carothers Herron

Drinking tea in bed on a rainy night (the cat
curled next to my hip), I lean
to the warm cup on the bedside table

and then, like the glimpse
of a young girl running through a far woods,
almost beyond sight, almost lost, caught
with the surprise of a sharp pain —
a thought, a memory

like waking at night and tripping
over the stool left mid-rug, losing your balance
in the dark. And so we fall

toward what hurts – all the losses, and listening
to the worrying, the constant effort
to make up for old failures.

Still I wasn’t quiet. I didn’t quit fighting.

Under the alder branches, hummingbird nest a thimble
of lichen in leaves, now you see it now you don’t sway
of spring. Going back and seeing
they’d cut them, my beloved alders, guardians,
of the path to my door.
Where did the hummingbird go to make her nest?

Ten times four seasons – prayers
of leaf buds unfolded into pairs of green wings
as if for a while the bare branches were filled
with tiny green birds fluttering in the spring breeze.
catkins with their blessing of pollen
smeared the sidewalk chartreuse.

(the tea cup warm in my hands, the sleeping cat)

All the slain trees I’ve loved — Why this war? The lies
told to cut them down. The arborist knowing to say
one is diseased so others can be saved.
And what of the souls of trees?

What of their generous spirits, welcoming
branches open to the rain, the wild waltz to winter winds?
How they cooled the house through hot summers.

What is this war on trees?

The thought of some things hurts so
the mind stumbles
and falls into the still-howling self —
what is beloved and taken by malice or caprice.
Some trees.

Now two hawks swim through winter oaks, gone in a blink.
Fifteen years here and those alders from the old place
come back and back. (the cat purring, warm)

Was I so lonely?
The great tenderness of trees.

How the alders grew, and the ginkgo by the kitchen —
so slowly yet one day it reached the second story window,
my writing room, and how I watched its leaves toss
in October, a shudder of yellow fans
and then the puddle of gold they made around its trunk.

The quiet comfort, the small steady joy of some trees (some animals).