in the gardens of New
York, for instance, or cantering down the
highway at 27 kilometres per hour,
sharpening their teeth      I have seen them –
360 kilos if they’re a gram – sunning their
albino skin among the flowers      I have
watched them rake and sow outside gazebos,
fertilising the fruit-cake earth, digging in
      at night they tend the sewers

            many have opened restaurants
near their nests      fine chefs, too, they are,
known especially for their baking: brioches
au sucre, tantalising tartelettes, delivered to
your table with a capacious grin      no one
makes a pecan pie quite the way they 
do . . . spreading them out for the young to
crack on through at hatching time

                        a tour guide in
the Everglades told me how he’d come across
them one night, a large group near the

river      at first he thought it was an elaborate
courtship display or a ritualised battle      it
soon became clear, though, that this was
some form of circus      he recalled them
clambering on to each other’s backs until
they formed a primitive pyramid      it’s only
a matter of time before they try the high
wire, he said      watch out then

Janis Freegard’s first solo collection, Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus, was published by Auckland University Press in 2011. Her work has previously appeared in AUP New Poets 3 and a wide range of journals and anthologies. She also writes fiction and is a past winner of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award. Janis was born in South Shields, England and spent part of her childhood in South Africa and Australia, before her family settled in New Zealand when she was twelve. She has an honours degree in plant ecology and lives in Wellington with an historian, a cat and various spiders.

Freegard comments: ‘A large male American alligator can grow to 360 kilos or larger; smaller alligators can reach high speeds on land over short distances (though perhaps not as high as 27 kilometres an hour); there are albino alligators in captivity, but they would be unlikely to survive in the wild because of their sensitivity to the sun; female alligators do build nests; there are alligators in the Everglades. Other assertions in the poem may be somewhat less accurate.’

Poem source details >



Janis Freegard at Auckland University Press
Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus at Auckland University Press
Janis Freegard's website
A list of all the animal species mentioned in Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus