The Animals of Big Bend Discuss the Wall

Carol Flake Chapman​

It was the pygmy owl that brought word

Of the wall to the creatures of Big Bend and asked

The bats to spread the message along the border

That was invisible to the animals but soon

Would split their free-wheeling world in two  


The owl tried to pitch his monotonous whistle to urgency 

As he hooted that all four footed creatures were in danger

Along with the winged creatures that couldn’t fly high

For they would have to choose sides north or south

Of the river that had nourished them for eons


The bobcats, the mountain lions and the bighorned sheep

Scoffed at the tiny owl who had a credibility problem

As he could hardly manage to fly up to four feet

And they roared and pawed the ground in disbelief

At the news that they could no longer roam freely


Who would build a wall along these canyons and cliffs

Asked the skeptical coyote and the ornery javelina

We have been crossing the river and drinking from her

In every season that our ancestors have lived here

For we know no barriers to quench our thirst or hunger


I believe him fluttered the Quino checkerspot butterfly

Whose California cousins were already struggling to survive

There are already so few of us she said and we cannot fly high

Enough to cross a wall that would block us from nectar

That tantalizes us but which we cannot reach and so must die


I believe him too said the ocelot who had grown accustomed

To crossing the river stealthily to find food and mates

As the prospects of his species surviving on the Texas

Side of the border kept diminishing day by day

As he grew thin and weary and close to giving up the fight


Surely a wall would not keep us out said the kangaroo rat

As he jumped up and down demonstrating his ability

To escape any of the predators who were looking hungry

Despite the agreement to cease hostilities for the day

Maybe I can jump the wall or dig under it or wiggle through


Dear Rat you cannot jump high enough said the pygmy owl

Just as I cannot fly high enough nor can the butterfly

Find a way to extend her wings to surmount such a barrier

And so we must find a way to ask the humans to stop building

A wall that will divide us and deny that we are all one 

Following a career as a journalist and author of nonfiction books, Carol Flake Chapman returned to her first love, poetry, following the sudden death of her husband on a wild river in Guatemala. Poetry, she found, was the language of healing and of deep connection to an endangered natural world.