The Prayer of the Common Newt
In a muddy pond, in the outskirts
of Clydebank, a mother, with over two
hundred eggs inside her, is beginning the process
of giving birth. Over the next few weeks,
each day she will deposit about a dozen
of them not on a folded over leaf, as she might
have done if there had been one around, but in the folds
of a plastic carrier bag. Each egg will be
individually placed inside a fold, which she
herself will create, and then held in place with
a glue that is contained within a gland inside her body.
As she presses the plastic folds together
around the eggs she must hold them firmly
between her fingers until the glue stiffens. It looks
as if she might be praying and, indeed, in her own way,
she is. It is a prayer for life. It is a prayer
for her offspring to have the best possible
chance of survival. It is the prayer of the common
newt that, though it is being offered by an amphibian,
is one for which we can all give praise.
The Swimming Pool
This afternoon, at the edge of the village,
in the disused, open-air swimming pool, there is
a young man tormenting his dog. He orders
it to jump into the pool and then proceeds
to throw stone after stone into the water, imploring
the dog to dive in and retrieve them all.
It is obvious, from the start, that the dog is
uncomfortable with this but that does not stop
the youth. I do not intervene, knowing that
if a man is capable of mistreating what he
deems to be a dumb animal, he will be just as likely
to harm another human being. It reminds me
of a time when a friend of mine and I tried to
separate a husband and wife only to find ourselves
being chased down the street by both of them.
As I walk home, I can hear, from afar, the young man
still shouting out the dog’s name, its high-pitched yapping,
and the monotonous splash of water and stone.
A Sort of Chorus
The day would have liked
to have had a dawn chorus
but was granted instead with
a cacophony of disparate
voices; a gaggle of geese
flew overhead; a murder of crows
cawed to one another from a range
of uneven gable ends; a colony
of seagulls laughed as they are
wont to do, not with, but at each
other; and one I hadn’t heard from
in years a solitary pigeon gargled
in the morning light. And it felt
as if, although not musical, almost
anything might still be possible
inside that crop of notes.
CALL TO ACTION: I would urge anyone who is concerned about man’s inhumanity to the non-human animals with whom we share this planet to visit We Animals Media at https://weanimalsmedia.org. This site “brings visibility to hidden animals worldwide through compelling photographs and film”, giving their harrowing stories “a place in the public conscience.” While visiting the site you will also be able to both subscribe to their newsletter, and make a donation to support their invaluable work.
George Meade is a Scottish poet based in the East Neuk of Fife. His tenth collection of poems, Zoospeak, a collaboration between himself and the Canadian photographer and animal activist, Jo-Anne McArthur, which examines the experiences of animals in captivity throughout the world, was published in 2020 by Enthusiastic Press in London.