Head’s Up poetry column: Prairie Dogs

A Poetry Column By Philip Appleman


“Prairie dog villages used to extend for hundreds of miles

across the plains. One city contained more than 400 million

of these ground squirrels. But 250 of them would eat as

much as a cow, so prairie dogs were doomed.”

—Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona

“We must welcome more babies to the banquet of life.”

  —Pope Paul VI

Zoologist are all agog

At this imposter of a dog

Whose fierce fertility and brains

Civilized the western plains:

Taking to himself a wife,

He made a banquet out of life

And bred a swarm of boys and girls—

A great society of squirrels.


Life was simple, life was sport,

When one day everything ran short:

The five-year plan for grass was clouded,

Burrows all seemed overcrowded,

“Too many cows,” they started to fuss,

“and what’s more, there are too many of us .”


Today, like aardvarks, yaks, and gnus,

Prairie dogs are kept in zoos.

Surviving rodents, may we hope

You have a message for the pope?

From Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie

© Philip Appleman.

Philip Appleman is a Dis­tinguished Pro­fessor Emeri­tus at In­dia­na Uni­ver­si­ty. He is editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Darwin. He and his playwright wife, Marjorie Appleman, are both “After-Life” Members of FFRF. Phil’s books: ffrf.org/shop.