Octavio Pineda

Cover illustration: Paula Bossio

The lion

I thought I was the king of the jungle,
until a true tyrant arrived
and took over my domains.
He has cornered me, with all my subjects,
into reserves of fragile borders that shrink day by day.
Like in the courts of medieval castles,
whose walls are often decorated
with portraits of former monarchs,
the hairy heads of my ancestors
adorn as trophies, as a tribute to ignominy,
the walls of mansions of hunters of prey.
That’s why I now say that I’m the king of nothing.

The orangutan

Sitting at the top of this still intact tree,
from the distance I hear the noise of chainsaws,
of heavy machinery,
and how the trunks rumble when falling,
with a tremor of aggrieved, badly hurt jungle.
The last time I confronted a bulldozer
I got seriously injured.
At first my younger, almond–eyed “brothers” just laughed,
as if I were an anecdotal curiosity.
But when they realized I was really upset,
they threw stones and sticks to shoo me away.
To foolish words, deaf ears, so I preferred to leave
and take refuge with my people, or what is left of them.
I ended up with a black eye and two broken ribs
that now make it difficult for me to sigh.
My old curtain fur has not really worked
to keep me hidden and safe from infamous destruction.
That’s why I say my fur is more like a weeping willow.

The rhinoceros

I looked like a living tank – an impenetrable fortress –
equipped not only with an armor,
but with a horn-shaped head,
a wonder of self-defense.
But, like Achilles, we all have our heel.
And mine was, precisely, that portentous shaft
that became the target of greed,
of absurd superstition.
Despite my tremendous muscles,
in many pictures I show myself crying
because since then I already knew
I would be one of the first species to go extinct.
They say the best defense is a good offense,
but in my serenity of peaceful monk I never believed it.
Now it’s too late to regret it. 

The whale

It is of little use to be the largest of all the species
that have lived on Earth.
The bigger you come, the harder you fall,
and my size made me the most vulnerable.
During the first journeys at sea,
the mere sighting of my mass used to frighten seamen, keeping them at bay.
And when they were back at their ports,
they used to exaggerate my size,
describing me as a monster,
as the guardian of unknown waters.
But very soon the planet’s worst predator
overcame the distances of this big water sphere
and, also, their own fears to then see me
as an endless source of meat, fat, and bones
and put me on the verge of extinction. 
Fortunately, a sensible ban helped us recover in number.
However, just as David defeated Goliath,
my worst enemy
is now entering me as poison in the stomach.
And these beards that had allowed me to eat well for generations
and been so effective in filtering krill from water
are now unable to distinguish those little crustaceans
from the plastics that flood the oceans.

The elephant

All that one has learned in the past is useless
when the present is so uncertain;
and that of my entire species is not promising.
In my role of a matriarch,
and thanks to my prodigious memory,
I have done my best to lead my herd
to geographies of water and food,
helping them avoid terrible beasts.
But the worst among them knows how to camouflage
and attacks from a distance, from a very long distance,
to put a bullet in our head.
We can do nothing.
In the face of treachery, the enormous force
that allows us to uproot trees is ineffective,
as well as closing ranks to protect ourselves as a group.
And all because of these ivory tusks,
which in theory are for our defense
but now I curse, for they have been our ruin.
If you want them so much to decorate your frivolous showcases
or make chess games,
I give them to you, but please don’t kill unnecessarily all of us.
The memory of the world, of the most antique,
that of mammoths and mastodons,
also lives on in me. 

The pangolin

With slight shape variations,
I had managed to survive
for millions of years.
Animal artichoke,
I’m the last living genus of the Manidae.
I have always felt close
to armadillos, sloths, and anteaters,
whose ancestors date back to armored glyptodonts
or the giant sloth, also called the Megatherium,
but taxonomists say
I followed a different evolutionary branch.
To defend myself, I roll into a ball, like a woodlouse:
in wise Nature, everything is interconnected,
no matter if you are a mammal or an insect.
Whatever my origin, my future is quite precarious,
and like for many other species
my ruin has been
the ignorance and superstition of mankind,
which has given my scales as frivolous uses
as making cowboy boots
or ascribing medicinal benefits to them,
when they actually are made of simple keratin
just like human nails and hair.

The polar bear

I’m dying from heat
in this oven that the Arctic Circle has become,
but unlike you
I can’t take my coat off
or turn the air conditioner on;
at the most, I can take a dip and try to cool off
in these warm waters that used to be freezing.
The many species – once abundant –
I used to feed on are also gone,
and I’ve had to swallow my dignity
as sovereign of this food chain
to end up sniffing around and begging
for something to eat in your trash,
well away from my natural habitat.
Turn off the switch of your mistaken «development»!
Or at least slow it down
to something more rational, more sensible,
because it’s ruining all of us the way it is.
Don’t sit back and do nothing,
seeing, unmoved, how this beautiful blue planet, 
still somewhat cool in winter,
melts down because of heat