My favourite little runt, one bursting with thirst,
the last to arrive and the first to get in, competing
on clumsy disproportionate puppy paws,
thrown into a frenzied rush for milk and survival,
knocked down by those fitter and fatter elder siblings
for lack of weight and strength and size and speed,
knocked into that crush of heavy silken bodies
beneath so many frantically scrambling limbs,

and falling away from the nipples and kept away
by the playful, piercing teeth of the litter holding
a grip on the nipples and forcing the weakling runt
again and again and again to give way, and give way
at peril – for staying alive is to rise despite
a howling stomach and painful, straining muscles
and with an obstinate, cunning, fierce persistence
confronting the will and the furious needs  of rivals,

until their pragmatic feeding habits must
adjust to the runt’s unyielding, grunting endurance
as desperation gives way to dexterity
and focused greedy insistence on milk to charm,
until the puppy learns to regain the nipples
for life with pleasure, trust and almost affection.
First in, last out, and up, that survivor, the runt
returning to the nipples again… and always.

Thomas Land

If you have any comments on this poem, Thomas Land  would be pleased to hear from you.