23 years I’ve lived in Philly and still
each spring— the pink —
Endling, Ender, Terminarch, Relict,
Martha, Benjamin, Incas, Celia,
and George oh George oh Lonesome George.
I saw George before he died not because I was
endling gawking but only because
I was there. Gawking.
Galapagos tortoise young
don’t know how to fuck so those
who grow up in cages without elders
without watching adults get it on
will never do it. We have yet to learn,
the naturalist said, how to teach them to want
Endling, Ender, Terminarch, Relict!
Get your endlings here, see ‘em quick afore
they be gone! The last of her species the last
of his kind! Last Passenger Pigeon! Last Tasmanian
tiger! Last Carolina Parakeet! Last Pyrenean ibex!
The last won’t last so get in quick!
Minor footnotes, one and all, before a storm of
endlings blows us clean
away. Last large land mammal, last large ocean
one, too. Last smaller-than-a-thumb Pine Barrens
frog. Last North American river without
fracking fluid, last 17 year cicada, others all
paved permanently under, last fluttering
heartbeat of a black-footed ferret.
But look, the sky shadowing, flocks
for miles coming in to feast, millions
of vultures and buzzards and bald-headed
consumers of carrion, population exploding until
they’ve ripped apart every ripened rotted
carcass until they too are fine feathered final
numbers before zero familiar story but
with no humans left to give the endling turkey vulture
a sweetly sympathetic name. So you
can nominate your favorite name now!
Harold, I suppose, or Maude, or with that bright red head
how about Valentine? Valentine, the Very
Last Vulture. The end of endlings
out with a bang.
From 5 billion down to only you
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
Of all the animals I
will never know you
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
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.
splurged on a latte
thus is the state of my
just barely had to work,
spent it on flowers put the vet bill
on the card
Granted fifteen thousand bucks
bought myself some time to write
spent it on taking care
of anything else
Begged a billion dollars
to make a new pain drug
now my baby girl is in
a new kind of pain
Won a trillion dollars
spent it on world peace
won’t keep me from dying
poor and alone
(with thanks to Gerald Stern for the first two lines. And also the word “dam.” And the endless stream of song lyrics. And letting the sleeping dog lie. Hell – thanks to Gerald Stern for all it, and all of poetry)
Now obsess on the wet kiss,
now obsess on the red knife,
slicing the cucumber cool-cool-cumber
Now obsess on your sliced bliss
now obsess on your green life
and laugh ha-ha though the day be raw
Now obsess on ancient trysts
now obsess on supposed strife
cry me a river and I’ll dam it to hell
Now obsess on not obsessing
now obsess on letting sleeping dogs
lie and rise and fly to their home, faraway home
Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking
comes the sea the sea
the mystery the deep the wild the universe’s
child O sea O source O return
the sea that has given and the sea that will take away
From waters above and waters below a split
a spit of earth then lungs then legs
Out of the sea, endlessly changing
all water, ever, just a rearranging of rain
and river and broad ocean wide
all water, ever, eternal bride with carbon
groom make single cell then ZOOM
giganotosaurus, virus then ZOOM great whales
Out of the atoms, endlessly combining
Out of the seeds, endlessly trying
to reach more sun than other seeds
make more food to store then die to
rise again, O insistent cycles in the face of which
there is no death no final just round again and round
energy to matter, matter to energy, grow and eat,
secrete and rot, out of rot another bloom
Out of the dying, always more dying
and always living in between O
insistent genes O eternal
crap shoot O malformalities that breed
evolutionary wonders O the trillions of billions
of heart beats heart beats heart beats that have beat
upon this spit of earth, in its skies and in its Mother
Sea O oceans O seas O birthing beds of all that is
O endlessly rock, O endlessly cradle the hearts
that beat the sap that rises the seeds that burst
the stone that stays the air that blows the water
that was our first cradle that is home to everything
that can ever be known
3/30 April ’14
April 3, 2014 at 9:31am
(a collaborative poem by me and google)
young people working together
young people reject dairy products
young people interested in electronics
young people today is better than young people before
young people children and the elderly in urban poverty in Ghana
young people’s guide to the orchestra
young people’s heroes
young people having fun on the beach
young people reject urban poverty products
young people guide the heroes on the beach
young people today working in elderly
young people is better together
young people’s elderly heroes
young people’s children having dairy
young people’s orchestra guide to electronics
let’s write it on human skin
Her scars I don’t
love I worship
my gods my maps my cruel
universe draws me in close
enough to stab slow so slow
epicenter of the gods of my own
Not pink-fade on knee from
first bike hitting tree not
dime-dimple of TB not
hairless strip from oven rack burn
not missing bit of finger pad taken by edge
of glass in broken pane
Gravity well black hole dark
matter what’s the matter? god
particle time portal Big
This year I’m joining the Big Poetry Giveaway organized by Kelli Russell Agodon over at Book of Kells Poetry Giveaway 2014. What a marvelous idea she had five years ago to spread the poetry love around! I’m giving away 3 books. To enter to win, post a comment saying which book/books you’d love to receive, and at the end of National Poetry Month I’ll choose a winner for each book by some manner of random drawing.
My 3 books, beloved for different reasons, are:
A Wreath for Emmett Till, an astounding cycle of poems by Marilyn Nelson. In a royal crown of sonnets, she reflects on the life and death of Emmett Till, the difficulty of finding language for this kind of grief, and the on going nature of violence and remembrance. Because this was released as a Young Adult book, waaaaaaayyy too many poets I love don’t know the work.
Legs Tipped with Small Claws, a 2012 chapbook from Joan Larkin in which insects and jazz and brittle sharp writing combine to be a huge delight in a small book. Joan gave me an autographed copy, so I’m passing on one I bought.
Another amazing little book that few folks seem to know, a 1954 book Langston Hughes wrote for children about the nature of rhythm in the world. I've found it so invaluable that I buy used copies whenever I come across them. To you, Dear Poetry Lover, I'm willing to pass along one of these!
Again, to enter, post a comment saying which book/books you'd like to be in the running for. Easy!
2/30 April ’14
April 2, 2014 at 7:45pm
let’s build a monster trap.
you get the shovel, and I’ll
find the thinnest story you ever used
to get me to take you back,
and I will lay it over the skylight.
let’s leave a map nailed to the tree.
let’s write it on human skin.
let’s put a big juicy X next to the spot
you once told me I’d look better
without a mustache.
when we find it, squirming
within our reach, its tentacles and fur
and hands with too many fingers reaching up
through the vapor,
it’s my problem, now.