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The prayer of the Common NewtGordon Meade

Gordon Meade
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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.