Friday, August 18, 2017

Die-off


When I tell my future great-grandchild that I remember
a time when a lucky human might see a Sumatran rhinoceros
in the wild, she will look at me the same way my grandkids
look at me now when I tell them how we used to plagiarize
our school reports on the dodo bird from paper-and-ink
encyclopedias, and then she will google the rhino and tell me
she thinks they look a lot like a Styracosaurus and did I ever

see one of them? My own imminent personal demise aside,
I wish I could leave behind more world for her. I imagine
this sixth mass extinction will be old news, in her day,
and there will be a page in the newspaper (extinct, ca.
2027) next to the obituaries, where the daily losses are listed:
Arctic Sea Ice (“gone fishin’”); Blue-throated Macaw (“died
doing what they loved best”); Bali Tiger (“what a happy reunion

in heaven with cousins Snow Leopard and Caspian Tiger”);
Coral Reef (“after a lingering illness”). She and her friends
will adapt, of course. No one does adaptation like the humans:
virtual reality games with ninja sage-grouse fighting it out
on the lek; animatronic golden-cheeked warblers
greeting them from a simulated Ashe juniper in the yard.
And while I’m imagining and bemoaning, why not take

a hopeful turn here at the end of the poem in which my not-so-
distant great-grand will have a great-great down the line,
in some still-habitable corner of the planet, who picks through
the Anthropocene layer for  a living and comes across
the badly-postured bones of what they will believe to be
the last living poet to escape the 21st-century purge, found
curled atop the one comfortable chair at a coffee shop,

cradling his laptop, only fragments of his last poem
recoverable, the scholars not surprised to find the words
liminal and luminous among the detritus, though the line
her smile was toothy as a Brazilian merganser sends them
scrambling to the luminescent Google Cloud, leaves them
smiling and nodding to each other like a polite audience
(extinct, ca. 2019) at a poetry reading.

(previously published in New Madrid Journal, 2017)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lifting Weights


Over the past year or so, I have lost the weight
of a grandchild or a microwave, five bowling
balls or housecats, or a large bag of sugar.
The sugar is perhaps most apt, given that
most of the extra weight I had been carrying
around all those years could be distilled
into a (large) powdered pile of sugar and a soupรงon
(or so) of rendered bacon fat. I can see your eyes

going glassy already, so let me assure you
this will not be a poetic memoir about my
struggle—some might call it heroic—to pull
myself back from the brink, wrestle that obese
monkey from my back. Nor will it be my thirty-
point plan which I will then sanctimoniously
advise you to follow if you know what’s good
for you, no sestina version of Sweatin’ to the Oldies.

People like hearing about how you lost weight
the same way they want to hear how your dreams
have become more vivid since menopause. No,
this feels like part of a more general plan—
though entirely unplanned—to pare down, un-
load, hold an estate sale before the fact, reduce
my life to its lowest common denominator.

I’m letting the books go, the CDs, taking boxes
of XXLs to Goodwill, eBaying the Pez dispenser
collection; everything must go. I’m saying no,
I’m scrivening, “I would prefer not to” on RSVPs,
I’m truant, AWOL, gone missing. This is not,
though, as far as I know, that pre-demise sloughing-
off, putting post-it notes on my cherry wood
highboy so the relations won’t squabble over it.

This is me sitting in the woods beneath
a Douglas Fir, next to a stream so clear I can see
trout leaning into the current, on the other side
of which a doe comes leading her young fawn
into a clearing, sees the stream and the tree, and,
seeing me, sees nothing that shouldn’t be there.

(published in Frontier Poetry, 2017)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Come-bye


I feel compelled, as I leave the coffee shop,
to push chairs in to their tables and straighten
newspapers into neat stacks. Easy enough.
The leaves in the stand of oak trees
in my backyard are raked into a bag almost
as soon as they fall, leaving only clean earth

between trunks. As far as compulsions go,
it seems harmless enough. At night, I sit
on the edge of my bed and tick through each
of my children and grandchildren, holding them
one at a time in my thoughts, thoroughly
scanning each one, combing through their lives

the way I comb though the long hair along
the forearms of my Australian Shepherd
after our walks, looking for stickseed and burs
that need cutting out. The dog puts his nose
through the fences surrounding the pastures
and animal pens we pass as we walk,

and I can see it twitch, see his eyes dart back
and forth as he accounts for each animal,
his legs quivering as the pull of instinct tells him
those sheep should be formed up, those free-
range chickens enjoy entirely too much
freedom, and he looks up at me as if to say,

can’t you see it? just give the order and I’ll
have things ship-shape in no time. And of course
I can see it, understand his need to herd, but these
are not ours, I tell him, and we move on,
ignoring the free-range world flickering
on the periphery, unfollowing Facebook friends,

unsubscribing from newspapers, walking
quickly around human humps and their middens
downtown, working, instead, to organize
the spice rack alphabetically, moving at a good clip
through cast and bring and cross-drive, until cardamom
sheds safely in its place next to cinnamon. 

(originally published in Frontier Poetry, 2017)