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Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

This poem is an excerpt from my book, “Wild Writers: The Animal World’s Greatest Poets”.

“Crown-of-Thorns Starfish” by Andrew Blitman

I am a sharp star who fell into the sea
To prey on corals and mollusks freely
On the Great Barrier Reef,
Where I came to turn over a new leaf
Beyond belief, until I bombard ye.

Each of my twenty-one arms
Has venomous spines that will harm
Those who get in my way
Or those who call me prey.
My outbreaks are no reason for alarm.

The polyps are mine for the taking.
My species is so efficient at raking
In the food from the shallows.
I will eat you like marshmallows
Because my presence on the reef is so Earth-shaking.

How the colonies recover, I don’t know,
But the crown-of-thorns will sow
What it has reaped,
A broken ecosystem is its keep.
He is not the one to blame, though.

It is the runoff from Australia’s farms
That multiply the meter-wide starfish
Into a marching battalion,
More bloated than the conquistadors’ galleons,
That steamrolls the Reef with its coat-of-arms.

We can rest easy knowing the food is there;
It is the other animals that must beware,
For the force of venomous spines
Will leave your conservation efforts behind.
Our gluttony will make you stop and stare.

So that leaves us with a proposition
Because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!
To keep our population in check,
You must stop throwing fertilizer off the poop deck.
We need the polyps more than you do – that’s our decision.

In a couple years, we might end up getting along.
You are the ones treating Nature wrong.
Life is not just a thorny game of trial and error.
It involves decisions with consequences that can last forever.
Don’t give up, though, for you’ll find favor if you’re strong,

That special place in the Food Web where you belong.

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