David Attenborough is a Guide for a Different Earth

By Tasha Coryell


It’s unfair that I’ve projected my disposition onto the crabs of the earth.

To be in love on the Planet Earth is for the male to flash his colors and then lie submissive until the female comes to him. No one ever looks happy while they are fucking here.

I want you to dance like a bird for me.

There are many animals that eat their young and nobody in the rainforest is holding up signs in protest. In the Animal Kingdom, there are no laws about who can die and when. They just do and it’s often. I can’t imagine the stress of having to live that way and then I remember that I have to live with the stress of knowing that I am going to die and that likely it will be something within my own body that will consume me rather than something covered in fur that is described with the word majestic by David Attenborough.

I rank the animals in order of how much consciousness I grant them: elephant, whale, dolphin, monkey, big cats, sea lion, giant lizard, tiny glass frog, fish. When I say consciousness, I mean that they have feelings that I can relate to my own.

Lack of food and overabundance of food are opposite problems that come to the same conclusion.

Humans envision themselves as simultaneously the predator and the prey. It’s true that I feel bad when the jaguar misses its meal. It’s true too that I don’t want to see a capybara die. The difference between humans and animals is that the prey have methodologies of escape. In the human world, the predators have created all the rules of capture and devouring.

I once had a boyfriend that was obsessed with birds because some of them mate monogamously. I want to show him the clip of the penguins diving in the tumultuous sea for love and ask him why he was never able to do that for me and then remind him that even if he had it wouldn’t have been enough for us to still be together.

I wonder if the animals under the sea wonder what it’s like to live on the land or if they know that there’s a land at all. I know that this is the plot of The Little Mermaid, but it doesn’t invalidate the question.

I don’t understand how anything grows up without first dying.

When interviewed about the second season of Planet Earth, one of the filmmakers said, “We didn’t expect there to be so many snakes.” I don’t have anything to add to this except to say, “Same.”

Humans look for places where the animal world reflects theirs because there is nothing that we like more than a mirror image of ourselves. It’s a poor comparison. If a man steals a loaf of bread because he needs to eat then he goes to jail. If a male snow leopard kills a baby snow leopard because he feels threatened by their existence then he’s just acting like a snow leopard.

In an episode of Blue Planet, a pack of killer whales hunt a grey whale and her calf to the point of exhaustion. When they have finally separated the baby from its mother, they eat the jaw and nothing else. David Attenborough assures me that when the corpse of the calf sinks to the ocean floor it will be repurposed as food by other creatures. This is little comfort. I’m not supposed to care about the whale more than anything else in the sea, but I do.

I want to feel sad about this earth, but the flamingos are on parade.

When the flamingos do their dance, it’s too hot for anything else to be outside. When the flamingos dance, it is so urgent that they don’t stop to eat. I rewind the flamingos and play them again. My love comes home and I play them for him too. In my house, the flamingos are always dancing. 

My love says, “How can they expect us to believe that this is real?”

I want to feel sad about this earth, but David Attenborough won’t let me.  

Tasha Coryell has recently had poems and other works published at Hobart, Fear No Lit, DIAGRAM, and other journals.