Zumwalt Poems Online

Better Than

Better than

The land and water is haunted with beasts.
Some are carnivorous;
Some are microscopic;
None are smart like us
or entitled to dine at a good restaurant.

They think, we think, but differently.
None speak Mandarin or Cape York Pidgin English.
They have offspring and some care for their young,
Some eat their young,
But not a one makes contributions to a college fund.

I can wear them as hats, or mount them on my wall
But I can’t suffer this idea that they deserve representation in Congress.
I can grill them on coals, or tie them to my sled
But I won’t consider giving them my email address.

Evolution is a dusty and poorly mapped path
Nonetheless, it does not cross upon itself
And head back many miles
So that one easily confuses the end with its beginning.

It doesn’t jump from amoebas to mudfish and then back down to insects
then jump up to chimpanzees, over to worms and across to chihuahuas.

It progresses steadily, more or less,
from moss to shrimp to clown fish
to red-legged frog to crocodile
and then on to penguin or duck,
next visiting the platypus,
on to rabbits and rats
and terriers and tigers,
or lemurs and monkeys
and gibbons, gorillas,
bonobos, and our friends next door,
the Millers.

At the top are we,
and granted certain privilege and priority.
We can extend our parking lots
and re-engineer the best sun-bathing spots.

At the peak are we
with our rhubarb pie and peach-ginger iced tea.
We have power of attorney to set fires to ancient trees
and reclaim land from the South China Sea.

The air and ocean is haunted with creatures.
Some are carnivorous;
Some are microscopic;
None should have free trespass without our permission.

We should put up security gates
And start up detailed dossiers.
Every genus should have a dedicated database;
Every species captured in a redundant set of disk arrays.

They may think that we think they are not much different than we
But none speak Mandarin, Hindi, Hungarian or Burmese.
They have offspring so that their lineage continues on
But that’s up to us and little to do with them.

We may not hang on.
We are a destructive bunch
With a vicious knock-out punch.

We may not survive the dawn,
but if we do manage to last
and hold on as the entitled upper class
they need to take note
most carefully
that we not only own all we buy, lease or see
but in the end,
we can certainly ensure
that none of them,
or at their leisure,
pass us
on any given branch
of the post-Darwinian,
often pruned,

— Zumwalt (2011)

Copyright © 2011

(Reposted by request of Monica)


Comments on: "Better Than" (24)

  1. a lesson in perception? (~_~) I was entranced in your points and rhythm and then amused by the way the poem feathered at the end (perhaps tappered is a better word) I tend to be more structured and I am tempted to try un-structured, however the flow of this poem never lost its momentum (~_~) bows humble


  2. I like how you so subtly (at first) and then more powerfully point out humankind’s arrogance! Nicely done, as always.


  3. “We are a destructive bunch, With a vicious knock-out punch” yes we are….great lines, well expressed poem 🙂


  4. They are watching us, I hope they are not fast learners!!


  5. we are quite arrogant..aren’t we…? and know so little… well penned…


  6. Like Art, I admire your sustained forward motion throughout this poem. Like Betty, I enjoyed your detailing our human arrogance.
    Like willowdot21, I know “they” are watching us, but I am convinced they already know us better than we know them!


  7. zendictive, Betty, Poetry & Icecream, willowdot21, claudia and granbee,

    Thanks very much for reading and commenting!


  8. Hi zumpoems, I enjoyed reading this very much. Indeed we have to ensure they won’t pass us on the evolutionary tree! Or must we really? Maybe it would be nice if some other creature could be hold responsible for all that goes wrong on this planet! 😉 including my spelling, sorry it is late 🙂


    • Yes, let’s hold the cockroach responsible! Now the issue is to find the lawyer that will properly represent the whole bunch! (Please note that no cockroach has ever won a spelling bee.)


  9. Evolution is a dusty and poorly mapped path
    Nonetheless, it does not cross upon itself
    And head back many miles
    So that one easily confuses the end with its beginning.

    nice…really like this stanza..and i dunno if we wont be knocked down a peg for our arrogance at the top…nice take on wild..


  10. i especially like the way you develop a sense of irony –

    or entitled to dine at a good restaurant.
    But not a one makes contributions to a college fund.
    But I won’t consider giving them my email address.



  11. I must be tired; having a hard time commenting on poems tonight. I take it (more from the comments really) that you’re being highly ironic, although, honestly, it’s hard to tell from the poem. You state outright what so very many people think. I hope you’re being ironic. Anyway, it seems to me ants and roaches own the world.


  12. Brilliant, brilliant. What a hike through the evolutionary jungle! I feel guilty for being human…Why did you have to throw a rhubarb pie in there?! That’s my favorite.


  13. I like your evolution theory, progression of species up to us at the top of the heap (or not?). Also enjoyed your humour on some lines. Lovely write as always ~


  14. Laughing to keep from crying–all too true, I’m afraid. If the greed don’t get us then the hubris will. Too many good lines to count–but I esp liked the way you echoed and elaborated the beginning list-like stanzas at the end, and “At the peak are we/
    with our rhubarb pie and peach-ginger iced tea.”


  15. a tiger once assured me, as he dined upon my limbs, that tigers are the pinnacle of creation, and that, clearly, humans, gazelles, and zebra do not think or feel in the same exalted way that tigers do, and so therefore he felt fine about devouring me. in fact, he seemed surprised and offended that i yelled.


  16. Yes, we are an arrogant and destructive species…it may turn around and bite us after all is said and done…


  17. This is very cleverly crafted, with some wonderfully under-handed statements and a pleasure to read.


  18. We are at the top of the evolutionary tree for the moment. We need to remember though, that those at the top, however briefly, have further to fall when the bough breaks, as it surely will.
    Perceptive and engaging piece.


  19. Laurie Kolp said:

    You lead us on a journey through this poem, too, as it evolves and forms.


  20. Oh, brilliant and wicked! I love your straight-faced enumerations.


  21. Subversive and highly entertaining.

    It would seem that we’re way too evolved for our own good


  22. This is one of my all-time favorite poems. It says everything I would like to say, all in one place. Thank you!


  23. gsingh214 said:

    loved it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: