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Platypus (BioScience, September 2020)

Rob Jackson
Journal Volume/Pages: 
70: 833


To be frank-

enstein, he is no beauty,
a fraud stitched together
with spare parts and baling twine—
duck’s bill, beaver’s tail
turtle’s webbed feet
an odd Pygmalion ideal.
Zoologist George Shaw
examined him first in the bowels
of the British Museum,

laid out on towels,wrote dryly what he saw:
“most extraordinary… the beak of a Duck engrafted
on the head of a quadruped.”
Animals were his friends.

I feel for him.
He can’t see or hear underwater,
just uses his sensitive bill
to touch the germ of something soft,
a worm, or a mate.
In courtship they swim perfect circles,
in synchronized ballet.

Pay heed.
He is dangerous when wet.
Pull him close and poison spurs
give weeks of pain.

Set free he makes amends,
extends arrow-like,
sun glints on his back,
last bubble rising,
and descends.