Poems for Opossums
The Moonlight Marsupials
Mouse and Minnow is a free weekly newsletter that creatively celebrates the amazing animals who share this world.
The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only marsupial we have here in Canada. They’ve gradually made their way northward from the United States, where the vast majority of them still make their home. In the same size range as cats and skunks, opossums are nocturnal omnivores who come out after dark to eat whatever they can find.
It seems to me there are two main responses to Virginia opossums. Most people either think they’re ugly/scary (with their pointy nose and naked tail and mouth full of sharp teeth for who-knows-what nighttime shenanigans), or adorable (with those little pink toes and white faces and babies hanging off them).
I’m not sure how the opossums would feel about either reaction, should they ever learn to surf the internet. Of course, both Steve and I are on Team Adorable, but I also think the opossum deserves a lot of respect for the way they’ve adapted to life around humans. They’re great neighbours for us to have too, since they eat dead things and unwanted insects, including the ticks who carry Lyme disease, all without causing any fuss for people.
So this week’s issue is two different styles of poems celebrating one very adaptable and under-appreciated animal.
With shadow legs and nimble toes,
Children upon her back,
damp grass under her belly,
strong tail a counterweight
to keep her world in balance.
With fur of smoke and storm clouds,
Ears tuned to the night wind,
nose turned to the rich earth,
memory full of sounds and smells
tied to satisfaction and sorrow.
With a soft face white as moonlight,
She will find food and refuge,
she will keep her family safe,
though city lights overwhelm the stars
she keeps her world in balance.
~ Marilyn Anne Campbell
Oh Pleasant Opossum
If an opossum you should see
give a nod, respectfully.
These neighbours feed on waste and rot
and eat the things you'd rather not.
They even gobble lots of ticks
which helps keep us from getting sick.
They do not dig, or stay for long
they grab a snack and move along.
Though they may hiss in times of fright
they'd much rather play dead than fight.
These peaceful critters do no harm
but after dark come out to charm.
Oh if a 'possum comes in sight
please do bid them a pleasant night.
~ Marilyn Anne Campbell
Want to know more about Virginia opossums?
The article “Opossums: These misunderstood marsupials clean up our yards and even help fight Lyme disease” from CBC’s The Nature of Things is both an excellent overview of the species in general and provides details on how they’re helpful in urban areas.
MentalFloss has a well-chosen list of “13 Facts About Opossums” (including the fact that they have no control over when they play dead).
Opossums have also inspired a number of other poems, including “Possums” by Sheila Black,
And while opossums may be under-appreciated, they are not without devoted fans:
Explore The ‘Possum Pages for one man’s “internet homage to America’s only marsupial”
Read about a woman on YouTube known as possum lady who combines a quirky sense of humour with the opossums who share her home. (Based on the ending of this unusually tear-jerking video of hers about the rainbow bridge, it seems likely she’s a wildlife rehabber rather than someone with pet opossums. A reminder that simply keeping wildlife as pets is illegal in many places and never a good idea.)
Join the Conversation
Have you ever seen a Virginia opossum? Do you fall in the ugly/scary camp, the adorable camp, or somewhere in between? Or how about when it comes to poetry? Do you prefer your poems rhymed or a little more free ranging? Let us know what you think.
You can comment or click the heart on any issue of Mouse and Minnow on the website archive, or hit the reply button in your email provider to send us your thoughts directly.
Thanks for reading,
Marilyn & Steve
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Mouse and Minnow is a free newsletter celebrating animals, sent out most Sundays. It is co-created by partners Steve Alguire (illustration) and Marilyn Anne Campbell (writing). Learn more about the newsletter or use the subscribe button below to receive original art and writing about the wonderful creatures of this world right in your inbox.
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