“Animal Kingdoms,” a poem by Associate Professor Brian Stefans

August 4, 2020

Animal Kingdoms

for David and Chelsea


I woke—and found my cats had taken a hike!

David had discovered he was gorgeous,

had attained his SAG card, was going on auditions

for supporting roles on the Cartoon Network,


and Chelsea had bartered her remarkable girth

for spots on fast food commercials,

as one who, like us, disregards the pull of the earth

on our passion: filling voids in the bowels.


Yes, I’m sure there are insects who’ve abandoned me

for cameos on the science channels,

such as the bedbug who found celebrity

as the one true conqueror of bedtime flannels,


or the impecunious spider who had regaled my corners

with devilish displays of artistry

who is now the go-to arachnid for commentary

about WatchESPN’s athletic fly hoarders.


And the lizards who once crept through the screen door

are now actors’ doubles for the new Godzilla,

and the water bug I, insultingly, thought a roach

commands six figures for its visage,


and the mold that grew on my English muffins

is speed-reading through HBO options,

as who, among the mammals, doesn’t care about toxins,

those Iago-antagonists of digestion?


But I’d like to say: I still have my bacteria,

loyal manservants against the siege of the world

upon my flesh, within labyrinthine viscera

—what is indissolubly me, though in the end I’m sure


the bacteria will have signed their sexy contracts,

billions of them, as the camera’s eye

finds drama in these most minimal of actants,

and spurns this precious lump—the human alibi.