Panther

They stalk quietly, not to avenge
Though, to some humanity, they could justify revenge.
Their interest, instead, lay toward their prey –
A hare, dear, stork – a little mouse grey.
It may stumble upon a reptilian battle
An alligator find could be its death rattle.
But, if removed from a space where it swims,
The panther, instead, will be one who wins.
The rate of dismissal now thankfully slowed
Though many undone by the busiest roads.
A life in Florida can be terrible harsh
When daring to exit the motherland marsh.
As others, their existence carries a sad metric
They lack past generations diverse genetics.

The Florida Panther is a subspecies of puma, cougar, mountain lion – the large cat that haunts the Ozarks and fur trapping young men. Endemic, naturally, to Florida. It’s population has seen a slight rebound from the teen-twenties to the low hundreds. As in, 120 in the wild. It suffers from hunting, habitat loss, and environmental poisonings. Also feline leukemia. And roads. It gets struck quite a bit crossing the road.

It is the only mountain lion in the Eastern United States, though sightings come out every so often in northern states. I had a college friend who swears he saw one crossing the road.

If you find a cougar in the wild, you are supposed to use your coat to look larger than normal to scare it away. Take your chances.

Trees of a Certain Age

There are trees that grow in Africa that can live a thousand years!

But people sneak in the front of the garden, cut them out of bed, and sneak out the rears!

The Cycad also carries other bright distinctions.

It has survived three mass extinctions!

A thick, woody trunk like those with leaves nibbled by the sauropods.

It’s relatives survive today in fancy gardens and in nature against enormous odds.

Imagine! A plant with a cousin in the Jurassic!

Dating to the Permian Era! That’s just fantastic.

Today, they have the largest seed cone of any plant.

If it can pollinate, which is hard with numbers so scant.

It suffers from habitat loss and too much distance to properly help others of its kind to fertilize.

Normally, a beetle is used, but now it’s people who hand carry the pollen that prevent its demise.

And I think we could consider the cycad and respect it for the age of its genus.

Don’t be fooled by individuals that would never be accused of leanness.

And consider that plants, too can become endangered species.

Fungus, as well – danger is not limited to the beasties.

The Cycad has recently been found to NOT have been alive during the dinosaur era – more specifically the species surviving today. This is due to evolution of the various extants, so I think the non-precision of calling it a dinosaur plant is fine.

Cycads are found in Africa and Australia in the wild where they grow too far apart to pollinate and people keep stealing them from everywhere. The transplants rarely go well. It is devestating to learn a plant with such a close link to ages past may soon be gone. Animals get all the press, but plants, fungus, and other eukaryotes face extinction as well. It’s probably the lack of a face that keeps it forgotten.

The poem is in the style of Ogden Nash who would write paragraph-length sentences and technically rhyme in couplets. He wrote very silly poetry (“light verse”) and I enjoy his style quite a bit. “In chaos sublunary / What remains constant but buffoonery?” he wrote – which I try to incorporate in my poems this month. I think the main emotion has been anger-foonery.