Praise Song for the Unloved Animals

Even the most maligned creatures of backyards and roadsides have a potent purpose in the world.

Sing, O muse, of the lumbering opossum, of the nearsighted, stumbling opossum, whose only defenses are a hiss, a hideous scowl and a rank scent emitted in terror. Let us rejoice in the pink-nosed, pink-fingered opossum, her silvery pouch full of babies, each no bigger than a honeybee.

May your young thrive to ride upon your back. May they fatten and grow large and stumble off on their own to devour cockroaches and carrion and venomous snakes. May their snuffling root out all the ticks in our yards and all the snails in our flower beds. When they faint in the face of marauding dogs, we call back our baying hounds and wait for them to wake. We cheer when they rise and shake themselves. We send them with our blessings as they blunder back into the night.

Let peals of gratitude ring out for the glossy vulture, soarer of air currents, eater of gore. We gaze in wonder at your distant perfection, mistaking you for creatures we thoughtlessly love much more: for eagles or hawks or ospreys. Stolid in our heavy human bones, we follow you with our eyes, watching as you barely shift the angle of your wings to bank and glide, to circle and circle again.

May we remember in your circling the cycle you complete. On the ground, something is suffering. Something is coming near to the end of its time among us, but its life is not ending. Its life can never end. You are turning its body into something beautiful: blood and feathers and hollow bones. Earthbound no longer, the dead are rising again in you, rising and rising, lifted on air.

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