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A Gnu Covenant

Listen to Fritz read this poem

The rumors, once flying, now settled into news.

This was to be the world’s first ocean cruise.

Fashioned from gopher wood, sealed with pitch,

The squatty, clumsy craft now deemed seaworthy,

Tho’ rudderless, could just as well end up in a ditch.

Left unanswered is the question—who would be worthy

Or desperate enough to join the untested staff

Circumnavigating in search of their likely epitaph?


Some outing for a family without seafarer’s blood,

Their only trait, singled out as people who were good.

Good? Good for what?

Good for navigating stormy, aimless routes?

Good for mediating troubled travelers disputes?

Good for sailing in a nameless skiff?

Good for settling any creaturely tiff?


Dispute and tiff were rife early in the voyage

Originating from all the critters in the stowage.

Talk turned to what everyone knew,

Threatening mutiny among Noah’s crew.

From zebra, aardvark, caribou and gnu,

They all agreed on what they should do.

Complaints soon came to the wizened master.

This sea-bound trip seemed headed for disaster.

Spokesbird for the offended parties, a precocious parrot,

Squawking about certain inalienable, avian rights,

And reciting the contentions of all the wayfarers’ plights.

Namely, the inequity of the passengers’ list.

“How could such an injustice be missed?

We have been forced to leave our nests, our dens, our lairs,

Refugees in the waving watery, wildernesss, abandoned but for prayers.”


“Quiet, quiet! Let me explain,” Noah began to impart.

“My instructions were clear right from the start.

Two of each, two of each,” Noah reported

“Oh no, no,” cried his wife. “The orders were distorted.

‘Seven pairs of this, two pairs of that,’ we were told.

How could they all fit and live in this humble hold?”


Indeed the orders were most confusing.

But that was not what the travelers deemed abusing.

From their own perch and their own stall,

They all agreed, ’tis not fair, one and all.

“Look at the fish,” they cried with resentment,

“All swimming around with smug contentment.

Dolphins in schools diving, splashing, cavorting,

As if our trip is just for frolic and sporting.

Those aquatic creatures have left no home.

They are free with their own kin to roam.

Whales have their pods, trout their hover,

Sharks their shoal, seals their rookery,

Otters their romp, jellyfish their smack,

Eels their swarm, alligators their congregation.

We—we have been uprooted, displaced, vagabonds of the sea

What justice in this tempest for us can there be?”


Noah, a slight bow in his shoulders, a slight bow toward the crowd

Thanked, yes thanked the speakers for what they had said aloud.

“We all share the fate of this trip.

On this unlikely, homemade rescue ship.

Though, as you say, all is not fair,

We now must work as one to make it square.

I recommend a binding covenant,

Not multicolored or arced, nor in the air, yet relevant.

When we disembark, let us make habitats flourish,

That we, for those in need and want, may nourish

With plenitude, justice, mercy and opportunity

A world rich in friendship and community.”


The gnu, with upturned horns, raised his nodding head and knew

That what Noah had said was certainly true.

The African beast added, “With all our skills and talents,

We must work for a sustainable, ecological balance.”

And then the canary was the first to sing.

“Indeed it is the just and righteous thing.”

Slowly the creatures joined their growls, barks, and chirps in a dramatic act

To form what was known as the earth’s first democratic socialist pact.

Fritz Fritschel
March 2009

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