brings together for the first time

the animal poems of Michael Cadnum. 

Cats, ants, whales—even the stubborn, lowly louse—

here are thirty astonishing celebrations of the most

intriguing and often overlooked creatures of the animal kingdom.


Even the familiar creatures, like the Eagle and the Elephant,

get new life in Cadnum’s unusual book.

The Raccoon makes an appearance, and the Peacock, and the Giraffe. 

So do the Jack Rabbit and the covertly assertive Roe Deer. 

Thirty poems in all celebrate the open secrets of the lives around us.

Rosemary Deen, poetry editor of Commonweal Magazine, says,

“Anyone who really wants to see the world will read and reread these animal poems:  Kingdom.”

A Kindle edition of this book now ready for you--and a paper edition, too.

 Elephant At the Mall Grand Opening


The snout is delicate, snuffling, pursuing the peanut and
extending further. Considering.
Two gouts of hot exhalation,
saluting, curling around the twin-nuggets
of the peanut shell and bringing the small woody legume to
a mouth
like a secret smile and then the exchange is done.
No more, nothing else to give.
But nonetheless the prehensile
poke-holes breathe, trespass on my shirt front and
and gently, shockingly softly, cross my face.
The elm-tree wrinkles around his eyes are equalled by
seams throughout his girth.
The eyes are so small, the feet so flat and ponderously right
exactly there,
and shifting unalterably in the following new position,
so weightily emphatic that

the manure just dropped on the sidewalk
is instantly trodden to flat, golden soil.
Even his shadow takes a long heart-beat
to shift and flow, passing with his keeper's
metal prod as the weather passes, climate
altering as the world settles on.
And yet he turns back, half a planet taking a long moment
in apparent curiosity at a stranger's bounty, wondering if
another gift might be in the offing,
so fully present, so immediately searching
with his ears shrugging upward like awnings and his skin
flowing with the argument of
muscles over his bones, that nothing can happen, now,
nothing but this great animal's wonder




This is the earth before
anyone laughed.
This is the persistent prehistoric
republic rising up along the wall,
escaping the rising groundwater trying
not to drown.
And in drought,
theirs are the hunters,
far from safety, groping
toward the still-moist sponge.
I marvel at their stubborn
multitude around
the stillborn robin’s chick but
I will not applaud them.
Here they are,
their long queue busy
all the way to the stored
Christmas candy under the bed.

Here is a solitary soldier
looking too small to have a pulse.
He feels his way, he feels his way across
the lighted sink top, so sure and even more sure--
he is so continual with his searching,
molecule-tipped limbs that
I lift my hand
and can’t. I can’t let the brute
palm fall as the illumination of the kitchen
and the daylight progress under
his intricate shadow and he stays in
one place, groping
as beneath him crawls the world.




The whales got too big and had to go back into the water.
A mother to her child, overheard at a museum


Even when we no longer ran,
for years, the hills
comforted, the pine-wood
brushed our broad, bony paws.
Sun kneaded the hair along
our spine, and rain
combed it warm and
easy under the dawn.
Each taste of living food,
quick and hot, was strength
and daylight was a giant room.
Bird shadow whispered across our eyelids
and slow voles flattened
under the browse

of our jowls. It could not
bear, the grass, the rain-brushed
soil. Night was threadbare,
wearing thin, wearing through.
One more afternoon, we prayed,
one more sunrise.
Gravel parted hard
beneath our plowing
preludes, voice to voice.
And when the weariness began
we could not name it, we
who had coursed over
the hill, plunged valley,
tossed free in the cold
morning light. Years since we had
danced, we thought: we are dancers.
Until we could not pretend, until the stone
sky pressed, and each breath hauled a
quarry in, and pushed it out again,
each heartbeat the grinding of ore
on ore. Such rooted
exhaustion we could not lift
a song. Nosing the tang of foam-spume,
shivering, chest to surf.
We were tongues. We were wet
as eyes. No one would know
us, we would have no name.
Without a star we drank
the black salt. And began.

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