Radical Love for Animals


   Christine Townend has been a writer and a champion of animal welfare for decades—both in her native Australia, where she has played a leading role in raising public awareness about animal cruelty, and in India, where she has established two animal shelters in the Darjeeling district in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas.  

        Through her stories, Christine's exquisite empathic sensitivity to animals has thinned the veil between our two kingdoms of life—human and animal.  (See Animal Souls, a webpage where you will find a few of her stories and learn more about the author.)

       Through poetry, in her new book Walking With Elephants 
(Island Press)
, Christine has drawn us further into the consciousness of the animal kingdom (and also the plant kingdom). Below is a sampling of her poems, some of which expose the pain endured by animals through interactions with humans, and others which indelibly enlighten.  They all sensitize us to our responsibility as stewards of Earth's life.

        Christine is also an artist.  Her paintings appear below.




Orchard by C Townend




Black Dog in Manali       

In this orchard village
of apples and marigolds,
the temple bell sounds
from far mountains
and under my feet
at the stained table
the black dog lies.

I give her one caress
and she, having searched for
   a lifetime,
at last finding her idol,
gazing with intent eyes
at every dispensed glance,
moves her tail,
forever hopeful of eternal love. 

Black dog, do not come
for what can I give?
I am leaving in an aircraft.
Do not love me.
Do not surrender.
See how the other stree dogs,
talis tucked, run in fear.

You come to the hotel door,
lie in wait for my future exit,
trusting the bond will last forever.

But the gardeners, on order,
lift their brooms
and you, whimpering, confused,
run crying up the road.


Dog - C Townend

The Lizard         

You owned the garden long before I came,
a speckled streak between piled rocks,
protruding, curious head, arched neck
wise, yellow watching eyes,
waiting for me to understand.

I threw meat.  You watched, immobile,
before tasting the smell with your tongue,
and then the flashed movement, gone before starting;
you chewed with small jaws.

And so I learnt from you. You knew my feet.
You flashed your presence,
silver light across the earth, under leaves.
You came, and took from my giant hand
(which reached into the field of your being)
the small morsel of proffered cheese,
and I felt the touch of your wild lip on my finger.
You took, like kings take gifts from commoners. 


Lizard - C Townend



She sleeps, feet chained, her bed cement,
sloped in pretence of a jungle hollow.
Here there is no earth, no leaf, no tree.

The mahout pushes the ankush into her knee;
she kneels on the rough floor
as he, thin arms laced with sinews,
throws the wooden howdah across her back.

He shouts; she stands; he pulls the girth tight
under her loose-skinned breast.
Again he yells and she extends her trunk.
He climbs onto her neck.

Cars nudge her thighs, the squashed city
crawls around her: plastic crushed in the gutter,
diesel black on the window sills.
Once she ate the wild banana flowers,
her roof was the canopy of trees.

Although she labours all day,
carrying tourists through stone arches,
entries of ancient kings;
although she feels the sting of the ankush,
still she walks in her forest,
padding on leaf-littered tracks,
her calf trotting at foot.  



Dog - C Townend



See also:

Animal Souls 

The Animals Await