MISFIT DOC: Sad Animal Facts in the style of Ikkyū

(Rabbits only make sound when threatened)

hearing a rabbit sound her alarm

bleats in the dark

dampness of the night

I feel a sudden yearn for

the smell of my mother’s warmth


(Lice can’t live without people)

without people, lice are nothing

without people, we are nothing

without people, trees are another sun


(Desert Jerboa douses itself in dust to fight grease)

jerboa douses himself like a monk

fighting grease and fires,

hello dust


(Puffins are called the clowns of the sea)


the lace-ruffled puffins want it too


(Baby tiger sharks eat each other in the womb until one is born)

so many tiger sharks in one womb

but only one born before a smiling moon


(Cats prefer human relationship to food)

like the docile cat, I am starving

up here on this mountain

but I’ll come down for you


(Goldfish can tell the difference between Bach and Stravinsky)

bach is and stravinsky’s not

the goldfish has always known


(Camels greet each other by blowing in each other’s face)

camels greet endless breath

ask nothing of each other but air


(90% of bees are solitary creatures)

bee, I’d love to give you some company,

but why do you turn away?


(Jellyfish have no hearts)

raging current mushroom floaters

hungry for salt-singed skin

jellyfish with no hearts


(Orangutans rush to cover themselves with leaves when it rains)

in the blackness of rain,

I can’t hide in the undercover of leaves

sometimes I am less orangutan


(Crows never forget a face)

I’m alive! Wouldn’t you say so?

The crow recognized me again.


(Birds that run into windows are often attacking their reflection)

windows streaked with blood feathers

only the mirror is a mirror

nothing else


(It takes a banana slug 24 hours to get somewhere a block away)

don’t wait for the banana slug

to get there tomorrow

help him now


(If a wolf is kicked out of its pack, it never howls again)

lone wolf tail brushes snow

keep your howl safe from razor-edged winds


(Nurse sharks lose a tooth a week)

the two-foot ax rests against the nurse shark’s gums

pile of yesterday’s teeth this hospital dipped them red


(Fruit flies can become hopeless)

burying the hopeless fruit flies today

plucked at my apple heart like my own death


(Voles become stressed when their peers are stressed)

vole of my own candlewick: burn until the rest

of your stress is yours not ours but when


Sad Animal Facts come from Brooke Barker's cartoons, which can be found at sadanimalfacts.com.

Ikkyū Sōjun was a radical 15th-century Japanese Zen master, monk, poet, and musician. The poems above are modeled after Stephen Berg's translation of Ikkyū's "Crow with No Mouth" (Copper Canyon Press, 1989).


Cameron Finch's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Windmill, Midwestern Gothic, Across the Margin, Orange Quarterly, and elsewhere. She hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan where she has taught creative writing workshops for kids at 826michigan, and now writes for the Michigan Quarterly Review. She is receiving her MFA in Writing and Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she also serves as managing editor of the literary journal, Hunger Mountain. Find out more about her at ccfinch.com or on Twitter.

Submit a comment