John Kinsella

Hymn of the Squirrels, Echidna Tremens and Singled Out
January 24, 2024 Kinsella John

Hymn of the Squirrels


Not an issue of ‘variety’, of red, brown, grey and black,
but of presence. Not an issue of contact,
but of fruits and storage. Tree-rise and leap;
collect, nibble, compile. Each catoptric joy.


Terror is never far away — the cyclist
with squirrel skins hanging from handlebars,
the percussion of small arms fire among
the blasts of deer hunters and pig shooters.


A hymn is not only praise, it’s a tangent of status quo.
As part of squirrel-world, we survey ratios
of refuge and shelter in zones of foray. I never
think of Pascal when ‘lost’ in a forest, only after.


Almost secular in a religious country, the leaves are lost
and squirrels become more visible, then not.



Echidna Tremens


If you allow me, I will publish this account
of our meeting. It will include no description


of you, no ‘observations’, and will never
be useful as field notes. No research will


reference its findings, because there will
be no findings. The wave-motion shakiness,


sensors constantly responding to changes
in terrain, are more about me unwittingly


sticking my nose into hallowed spaces
where it isn’t wanted. But I took no photo,


sketched no likeness, painted no abstraction
that feeds on our interaction in any way


whatsoever. Just this text, written
with the shaky hand of surprise.



Singled Out


The sheep raised from a bottle and put back with the mob
gallops over to the fence and bleats. It has been granted a name.
It responds to its name. Many sheep have been hand-reared
on farms and ‘returned’ to the demi-wild of paddocks.
This sheep has been castrated and placed with a mob of ewes.
It studies the visitor (fascinated by its behaviour) with eyes the visitor
considers ‘uncanny’, out of the ordinary, disturbing and unsettling.
Projecting, they conjecture the sheep knows something it shouldn’t.
They get a frisson suggesting a risk. Something mythopoetic.
The person who was responsible for feeding and raising
the sheep — little teat-puller as a lamb, a nuzzler and bumper,
a real card and a character — is amused and delighted
by the visitor’s reactions, and says, Don’t worry, this one
            will die a natural death or simply of old age. Eventually,
            it will forget us and never respond, and its eyes will become
much the same as other sheep eyes. But out of nostalgia
and that disquiet that we don’t want to pass on to next
generations, we will let it live, unless we sell the farm.

John Kinsella’s poetry volume Insomnia was published by WW Norton in the US in 2020. Norton will publish his new selected poems in 2025, and a new collection of poetry, Aporia, will appear with Turtle Point Press, also in 2025. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, Emeritus Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University, and an Affiliated Scholar with Kenyon College.