One afternoon I was driving in downtown Lexington and saw a raccoon running along the sidewalk. Actually it was less a run and more a determined walk alongside the feet of the lawyers and businessmen who populate our downtown during the day. Men and women wearing suits and ties (as opposed to the burglar’s outfit of the raccoon), but ever in a hurry, knowing where they’re going. And the raccoon certainly knew where to go, straight to a city trash receptacle, disappearing inside, I assume for a bite of lunch, probably discards from the many lunch diners who line our streets. So, our lunch was also the raccoon’s.
When Sherry and I were discussing a theme for this issue, that event resurfaced. Talking of the way certain animals have made homes beside us, invited or not, we decided it would be worthwhile to call for work that considers the way man has unwittingly created urban environments where certain animals thrive, often just out of sight.
And it seems to us that the imagination and sensitivities shown in these fine poems, narratives, and artwork have captured this accidental coexistence very well. There are animals beside and within us. Either inside or outside our houses, on the streets, on the roof, in the air, seen or unseen. Escaped lab rats, rock doves, alligators (perhaps in certain cities), coyotes, roaches, more. None really belong and yet they all do. So here they are, in words and artwork which draw a range of meanings from these urban animals, uncovering the sometimes startling ways that they intersect our concerns and reflect the human world.
When Dave suggested “Animals in the City” as the theme for our issue of qarrtsiluni I was skeptical. After all, I live in the country. My experience of urban animals is limited to the chipmunks that burrow under the decorative boulder in front of the clinic where I work. Those and the occasional unfortunate bug that survives the poison spray to raise screaming panic among my co-workers, women who are calm in the face of disastrous human illness. I was charmed, however, by Dave’s tale of the enterprising raccoon and I trust his instincts as an editor, so I agreed. The result outstripped my fondest expectations. I was surprised by the variety of animals who live among our urbanites and suburbanites: Birds — from choreographed grackles to a cowboy cattle egret — and squirrels of course, and a wide variety of cats, but also bears, coyotes, rattlesnakes, a lion, possums, mice, skinks, box turtles, a stag, bees, mayflies, an aardvark, and a pantheon of Greek gods masquerading as dogs in Athens. In addition to Athens, these animals live in Los Angeles, London, Glasgow, Vancouver, France, Sweden, Germany, The Philippines, Nigeria, and Australia. These animals charm and they witness disaster. I was impressed by the way our furred, feathered, scaled, and exoskeletoned cousins adapt to what we’ve done to their world, and I was gratified at the variety and quality of the submissions we received. Thank you to Dave for the suggestion and for sharing the hard work of choosing, to Dave Bonta who gave us this opportunity, and to everyone who afforded us the privilege of reading and featuring their work.
For bios of the editors, see the call for submissions.