The Pangolin

The life cycle of a pangolin with upsetting details.

Well one year on from the terrible pandemic that swept the world do we remember the supposed start of it in a wild animal meat market in China.  It was said to have been a bat or a pangolin that transferred the virus mutation to humans.  Who really knows? But hopefully the wild animal trade that sees beautiful exotic wild creatures trapped, cooped up and sold for food will be erradicated now.

I was thinking of the start of the pandemic when reading from my Penguin Book of Women Poets poetry collection this week and came across this poem by the American Marianne Moore, and liked the comparison to people she makes in this verse. Is it a comparison of a person to a pangolin or of a pangolin to a person, or both? The last couple of lines, ‘The prey of fear . . . . my soul’, speaks to me as I feel a bit like that each day.

The Pangolin

by Marianne Moore

(verse 7 onwards)

 . . . . .    A sailboat

was the first machine. Pangolins, made
for moving quietly also, are models of exactness,
on four legs; or hind feet plantigrade,
with certain postures of a man.  Beneath sun and moon, man slaving
to make his life more sweet, leaves half the flowers
worth having,
needing to choose wisely how to use the strength;
a paper-maker like the wasp; a tractor of foodstuffs,
like the ant; spidering a length
of web from bluffs
above a stream; in fighting, mechanicked
like the pangolin; capsizing in

disheartenment.  Bedizened or stark
naked, man, the self, the being we call human, writing-
master to this world, griffons a dark
'Like does not like that is obnoxious'; and writes
   error with four
r's.  Among animals, one has a sense of humour.
Humour saves a few steps, it saves years.  Un-
modest and unemotional, and all emotion,
he has everlasting vigour,
power to grow,
though there are few creatures who can make one breathe faster and make one erecter.   

Not afraid of anything is he,
and then goes cowering forth, tread paced to meet an
at every step.  Consistent with the
formula - warm blood, no gills, two pairs of hands and
  a few hairs that
is a mammal; there he sits in his own habitat,
serge-clad, strong-shod.  The prey of fear, he, always
curtailed,extinguished, thwarted by the dusk,
  work partly done,
says to the alternating blaze,
'Again the sun!
anew each day; and new and new and new,
that comes into and steadies my soul.'

Pangolin | Species | WWF

Published by simplyme841

How I got through it I really don't know, but I did a vow of silence for learning disabilities for a year a couple of years ago. I had wanted to do it for three or four years beforehand, after finding out about an Australian who did it for the animals. But the timing was never right. It was difficult but during the silence I learnt about John Francis, the environmentalist and author, who did it for seventeen years whilst walking barefoot across America playing the banjo. I had to make sure I drank enough fluids and had plenty of exercise so that my respiratory system didn't collapse, and learnt new things and read difficult books to keep my mind alert. It is very tough again during lockdown too, but immensely difficult for those with learning disabilities. I began writing my poetry last spring in the first Covid pandemic lockdown, and it poured out of me. But as you can tell from my readings my voice is still weak.

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