NaPoWriMo 10/30 Martha

10/30

Martha

From 5 billion down to only you
Martha, passenger
from wild to white.

My grandfather said your flocks
took days to fly over dark
the sky with the thick of you
murdered by tall poles thrust into
flight path, momentum of your mass
sliding death by the thousands
down to the waiting
white men. How fun
to count to compete to complete
destruction and head home
for supper.

Of all the animals I
will never know you
Martha
stick in my gut, you
and the crows I did
not grow up with, extinct
from my thousand acres
youth, murdered by another white
male trick. When I was a child, my father said,
they had me climb a tree and steal a baby crow
put it in a cage and make it scream and when
the adult crows flocked in hundreds
to help a dozen men or maybe more
would blast into the black of them
the burn and pop of shotgun shells
rattling.

To every crow I see I call
Cousin, cousin, greetings to you.
Are you cawing murder still? Have you yet
found descendants of survivors
of the Morgan County Massacre?
Reparations, Cousins, take my corn,
my silver, the shiny bright blue
of my father’s young wide eyes.


Martha was the last known Passenger Pigeon. She died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. At her death she was frozen in ice, shipped by train to the Smithsonian, skinned, dissected, and her skin stretched over a mold and mounted for display. Estimates place the Passenger Pigeon population at 3-5 billion before Whites arrived in North America, and the pigeons were slaughtered, in part, as cheap food for people held in slavery.

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