I lay still as death and might have lied so forever had not a booming voice roused me.
"Birds, insects, hairy
beasts - listen to me!"
But who is speaking?
"Here's my idea, short and to the point. Each of
us, to make our trip go quickly, shall tell a story during our migration."
Where am I? Stunned, I rub my eyes.
Then I see a bunch of animals with a big brown one speaking.
"The one who tells the best story - whoever teaches
and amuses most - shall get his heart's wish or see her dream come true. Yes, when we reach our destination. Come, fish and
fowl: don't be so shy. How about you, bear and caribou? Shall we hike in dumb silence? Can we plod on mute as stones? No!
Let us sing and tell tales - campers' merry tales. Who shall begin? Here: let us draw straws.
Straw? I am sprawled
in straw. And I ache all over. That storm, the ocean... A cold wind dumped me here! And now his hot air rouses me from my
dreams. What dreams! Wet dreams: Pagoda's pheromones, phantom perfumes of my mind making my mandibles water. Yes, wet dreams:
nightmarish sweats over the beatings, the screams, the crushed eggs, the trench of fire that was Pagoda's grave.
I do hear every syllable of this booming speech. Or am I dreaming now too? No, there he is - a big, brown, elk-like beast.
He HAD spoken, and "insect" was his very second word.
Now he stoops to gather straw. Still weak from my
ordeal, I cannot jump away. And so when that beast bids each friend to choose a straw from his outstretched paw, how surprised
are they all to see a cricket clinging to a stalk - yes, me!
Ah, reader dear, please give me space and time.
My story in all justice demands rhyme.
It only stands to reason I
In VERSE the nature, looks and appetite
Of these strange beasts if snob or democrat.
And I'll begin
by telling of a bat.
A bat there was who topsy-turvy swings,
Of all mammals the only one with wings.
ate and pollen from the flowers,
But he would only dine nocturnal hours.
A big brown knight of darkness who could
And truth to tell I'd say he had it all:
Sonar and huge ears for navigation -
No better voyager in all
With him there soared a swan, as white in hue
As bat was brown. These two together flew
So the swan could try his
flying skills in strife.
For this old cob had flown just with his wife,
His pen of forty years: for life they mate.
In many pond and stream did they copulate!
No music in those swans - their dialogue
Was hiss and grunt; they barked
like any dog.
A yeoman there was, one who grazed the grass.
But he was the last of his kind, alas.
The largest beast in this new
world was he.
Sixty million strong once his family.
Fifty miles long his herd stretched forth
When bulls and cows
and calves migrated north.
"Let me speak first!" Thus with hump-shouldered yell
The bison roared. "I
have a tale to tell."