A Work of Heart

I’ll do as Donne and damn the rising sun

Whose greedy light consumed our precious hours

Embracing all clichés: she is the one!

(Might be her gold-eyes give Petrarchan powers)

I shall as Shakespeare claim my Mistress rare

Though my love’s voice is sweetest music sought

My Princess’ kisses are without compare

And summer’s day similes come to naught

The only romance worth my pen’s ardour

Is one that seldom inside love songs sat

Thus far, however, no man moved me more

No doubt some fools will think it vulgar that

My only sonnet – first poème d’amour

Is heartache for a royal jungle cat

I wrote this sonnet at three different airports on my way home from the animal refuge Parque Ambue Ari in Bolivia last August. I spent the summer of 2011 walking a puma on a leash through the jungle and I fell utterly and hopelessly in love with Wayra. Her name means “the wind” in the indigenous tongue, for her moods are as shifting and she can run as fast.

It was the best two months I have ever experienced. When I left I was pretty much heartbroken, and so I decided to call on my Muse and go Shakespearean (though strictly speaking – me being a literature student and all – it is a sonnet of the Petrarchan tradition).

This is for everyone who has spent hours sunbathing in the early morning rays in the jungle with a big cat doing her daily toilette and blinking peacefully at you from time to time, making your heart swell; the macaws shrieking in their colourful flights overhead; the heat just starting to affect the dew – clinging pearly to the leaves all around; the faint rustle of some small animal in the bushes behind; a little army of ants marching right next to your outstreched arm; and that is all the world…

…and then your cat suddenly leaps to her feet, alarmed at some sound from deep within the jungle (a devilish branch fell down; how DARE it?!) and she drags you to your feet and runs pell-mell up the tallest tree she can find, where she almost chokes on the leash which you are clinging onto for life. She hisses indignantly as you nearly cause her to lose her footing, you petty fool!, and the rest of the day is spent in the unforgiving presence of a Queen with claws who refuses to come down before you’ve groveled for at least three hours and then she hisses and growls and sneers all the long, wrong way back to her palace – where she bluntly refuses to let you unclip her from her horrid leash (it was you, maggot, who so cruelly forced this atrocity upon our person in the first place, so don’t you dare make any hasty movement or even remotely brush our royal neck with your clumsy, unworthy hands!); hiss hiss hiss – SNARL! And you come home sweaty, dirty, bruised and late for dinner.

But with that grin stretching across your face you’d think you had just spent the day riding rollercoasters and eating candyfloss.


Ambue Ari is an animal refuge in Bolivia whose main goal is to rehabilitate orphaned/ abused animals back into the wild. When this is not possible the organization strives to provide each animal with the best quality of life possible.

Please visit www.intiwarayassi.org! It truly is a wonderful place and they need volunteers all year round.