Kangaroo & Joey

Kangaroo hopped through the scrub 
when a desperate sound reached her ears                
Echoes of loss and hopelessness 
so sad her eyes pricked with tears                                        
She followed the sound of anguish 
to a baby kangaroo                                                   
Hunched over the form of a mother, now gone                                                                      
One heart split into two 

Kangaroo knew by the musk on the wind 
the foundling wasn’t her blood                              
Survival of the fittest 
whispered its cold should                                                                       
but the universe is woven 
with threads of soul and heart                                                 
Kangaroo bent low 
her arms began to part 

The joey turned his head 
met her eyes, saw her pouch wide open                                               
Waves of compassion rolled on the breeze 
from a gesture so loudly unspoken                       
He nuzzled his Mama goodbye 
for what he knew was the final time                                   
Told her not to worry 
things would turn out just fine 

Then in one great bound he jumped 
from all that he'd ever known                                   
Trusting the weave of an unseen net 
to catch him in seeds of chance long sown                        
Knowing for the first time 
a truth most only see at the end                                                   
love runs through more than body and blood                                                                           
and open hearts hold the power to mend
Photo by Aneta Foubu00edkovu00e1 on Pexels.com

I came across an article about kangaroo adoptions recently and scientists were marvelling at the discovery that some kangaroo mothers adopt joeys that aren’t their kin. Yet despite this amazing discovery, the general consensus was that it was a mistake: the mother got confused and identified the joey as her own.

I was surprised that empathy or an emotional response wasn’t even considered as a possibility, despite the fact we know animals are sentient beings who experience emotions: elephants grieve their dead, dogs comfort their owners when they’re distressed, rats have been shown to help a drowning friend even when offered a treat to do otherwise, suggesting they value friendships over food.

I experienced animal empathy first-hand as a child on a visit to sea world: at the end of a show children from the audience were invited to gather around a pool of dolphins while the dolphins threw balls to them. When the time was up and the dolphins began swimming away, the people dispersing, I was the only child who hadn’t been thrown a ball and I started to cry. A departing dolphin threw one of the remaining balls to me and I stopped crying immediately. I’ve never forgotten that feeling of surprise and wonder: the dolphin saw I was upset and knew how to make it better.

Survival of the fittest as a story of competition pervades our culture. It’s a story that’s based on individualisation and cut-throat competition, yet there’s another story that exists in the natural world: one of cooperation and helping each other. This story doesn’t seem to get as many headlines or as much screen time, it doesn’t dominate our culture or pervade our systems and institutions in the same way as the story of competition. But which story is likely to lead to the kind of future we want to see?

Photo by Dio Hasbi Saniskoro on Pexels.com

11 thoughts on “Kangaroo & Joey

  1. I didn’t know that kangaroo moms were empathetic [or confused] enough to adopt stray joeys. That makes me happy. You’re right about the cultural emphasis on competition. Focusing more on cooperation would be an improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It makes me happy too, the world can be a wonderful place 😊

      I’m hopeful there’s a shift to more cooperation happening, unfortunately these kinds of shifts usually take longer to happen where they’re needed most (like governments!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a beautiful poem , especially your experience with the dolphin. What a wonderful world it could be if we just helped each other more.

    Liked by 1 person

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