This poem was published in The Poetry Review, winter issue, 2016. You can find out more about this issue, and buy a copy, online.

"My poem, ‘Noah’s Notes (Preliminary)’, imagines Noah on duty by the Ark’s door as the animals enter. He makes notes about each of the creatures. His notes are preliminary, however. How much more time will he spend, I wonder, studying (like a biblical David Attenborough) the lifestyle of the creatures penned in the Ark as it sails along the flood?"Read more as Penelope Shuttle explores what's Behind the Poem...

Noah’s Notes (Preliminary)

by Penelope Shuttle

There’s meaning in the various colours of doves.
The blood of a he-goat is so hot it can dissolve diamonds.

The spider is an aerial worm that feeds on air.
A drink made from the tears of a stag cures heartache.

Bees are the very smallest of birds, born from the bodies of oxen.
The cat is a shadow animal, the Bible has never believed in cats.

The eagle will not converse with falconers
but a she-wolf will take communion from a priest.

The blue-eyed phoenix lives on a diet of dragons.
Hunting dogs are just as beautiful as the tallest medieval horses, the destriers,

or the soul when it is first spied as some tiny thing, a maggot or a grub.
When the starling speaks in French, you must listen.

The hare may not always be a Christian.
The moth found on a young boy’s kimono sleeve brings sorrow.

Hawks stare at one another without moving their eyes;
this is how their young are conceived.

The dragon-fly never stops working on the twelve volumes of his memoirs.
The pig takes mercy on the vineyard, and is the world’s best wet-nurse.

The he-wolf must be tricked into sleep, then bound
with a rope made from the sound of an ant’s footfall,

the breath of a fish and the spittle of a bird.
The snake is the best doll-maker you could ever wish for.

The elephant! He takes up so much room, he won’t tolerate the crocodile.
He’s so wise, how can I forbid him?

The three-toed sloth is nothing but a bundle of leaves,
and so is the brown-throated sloth.

With her iron jaw and massive clitoris,
the beauteous hyena is no more and no less than a Queen.

The lion is the strangest of messengers, with his Tsar’s face, the chakra of his tail.
Give him your full compliance.

The swan bids the rain leave off with a swirl of her meekly-shaped wings.
The oriole is an unimportant bird, but proud as a hornet.

The winter-sleeper ignores the moon, and the two little toads.
Only the mouse comes in with the blessing of God.

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