if only because they are beautiful

 

If only because they are beautiful

 
I remember standing before the monitor

in the small room with windows for walls

reading a message on the black screen

with white type, somewhere between

programming language and visual copy

4,000 tigers remain in the wild

4,000 left near the close of a century

that began with about 100,000

Nothing else, no images.
 

A black background, white symbols.
 

I do not remember if I wept then and there.

I do remember opening the door to walk

out of the glass room into the lobby

and then another door to the sidewalk

where I was struck by a bustle of students

on their way, somewhere.

Much like the time after

I watched Schindler’s List alone

curled up in the soft seat of the old theater.

Outside

the world had not changed

to meet the other one

so real

as in alive and vanishing.
 

In the classroom we would study

the unspoken world

that can be read on flyers in black and white

at the petition table

in the mall where people pass by

on their way somewhere.

And the sorrow that shatters glass walls, twisting

metal frames, stops at the throat

where it is reserved for pet euthanasia.
 

Buddy passed on the steel table

while I rubbed his forehead

as I sobbed, after I’d given the veterinarian

a page with letters and numbers

in black on white

a wild story of loss

the domestic goes without knowing

until the story is seen.

For days I greeted buddy as I entered

the quiet house,

stopped stopping myself from calling, until

I stopped calling.
 

In the morning and the evening

what really hurts is having no one

to talk with

so the bachelor from Appalachian coal country

is befriended by feral cats who walk with him

through the woods.

And with each one’s passing, he lets out a wail

like mine for the wild that grows lonely.
 

Because I do not know what it means to be hungry

among big cats

I love them if only because they are beautiful

and beauty is what I grieve with my fingers

tracing the scars on the face of a West African king

one left

of 250 and going

 

note: If Only Because They Are Beautiful was written February 2014 during a month's witness with big cats. Tiger stats are from 1996.  West African lion stats are from 2014. The poem is voiced in this short film that features some of Bryan Holland's paintings and also in this March 5, 2018 radio interview.

This is the final posting in a series of poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection. Posts resume sometime soon. x x

The Wild Ones

 

THE WILD ONES

 

Where do we belong, the wild ones

entrusted to God?


The wild ones, who do not know fences

because God does not build fences
 

The ones who read light, dark, movement, sound,

temperature and scent to find our way

through the forest
 

Where do we belong

when the forest is gone?


The wild ones who are out of our skin

with the torment of waste and rape, ravaged

by crying babies and screaming mothers beaten,

bombed and abandoned


Where do we sleep but in the alley?

Where do we eat but from the waste?


We, vultures in the wake, whom God has chosen

to digest the decay,

Where do we belong

when everything but us is clean

on the surface?
 

Where do we belong, the wild ones

who live honestly without question?
 

And who but God feeds us by hand?

 

note: Written March 2014 during a month's witness with wolf, 'The Wild Ones' like 'In Solidarity I Am' is one of few among my poems that's been completed in a flash once the first line appeared and without editing since. 'The Wild Ones' was written as a transient myself in solidarity with all homeless individuals.

This continues posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection. 

 

SOS

 

 

She eats alone

a leg shackled

in a cement

box

walls

on three sides

a fourth open

to the dirt lot

and buildings

from where

someone

brings her food

only

 

she is sure she exists confused

if she does

uncertain of everything but death,

she stays home in a third eye

 

note: SOS is written with thoughts on a forest elephant shackled and staying alive while isolated in captivity. The poem is included in the 2012-2017 collection. My mother, who is locked in a memory unit as of 2015, is here with elephant and me too. New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.

Mweza

 

Mweza*

And it was not the countless corpses flowing downstream
in muddy water.

 'Man of the Forest' by Denise Monaghan / denisemonaghan.com

'Man of the Forest' by Denise Monaghan / denisemonaghan.com

It wasn't even the petrified
bodies at the museum.

It was the young one,
Mweza, who having been caught in
and rescued from the poacher’s trap,
was lost on the drunk tyrant
you were enslaved to. 

Mweza would teach you what it means to be shattered by love
as if, this, her only reason for being in the world.

Mweza’s sole offering bestowed upon you

in the feeling of what it is
to watch a vulnerable delight die
while thinking

you could have kept her alive
had you been fearless as she

 

note: 'Mweza' was originally shared in an Extinction Witness post September 2015 along with paintings by Denise Monaghan during a month's witness with primates that considered the roots of violent competition, referencing Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas Emlen. Mweza, loosely translated ‘can do’, is a young mountain gorilla rescued by Bill Weber and Amy Vedder, and Dian Fossey. The poem is informed by memory of a film documenting the 1994 slaughter of nearly one million Tutsi men, women and children in Rwanda and a reflection on that genocide along with the story of Mweza’s death authored by Bill and Amy (In the Kingdom of Gorillas, 2001). By Bill and Amy’s account, Mweza could have recovered from a festering wound had Dian facilitated proper treatment. 

*'Mweza' continues posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection. 'Man of the Forest' by Denise Monaghan - denisemonaghan.com / shared with artist's permission. 

New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.

one reason to live

 

Let me touch a baby elephant

who lost her mother to poachers

and learned

to trust again

and thank the grown man

who convinced her

of reason to live.

 

Let me hold the 18 month old girl

who survived the tornado in Arkansas

sheltered by her parent’s dead bodies; 

then watch her grow to be

a woman with dandelion's knack for color

and ferocious strength and softness.
 

Let me listen at the door of the closet where inside

a daughter sits huddled on the floor alone

grieving the loss of her mother,

business partner and best friend all in one,

all at once; Let me say to her, 

I hear you, have not a clue how much pain you are in, and I am here

for you..

 

The earthquake killed nearly 9000 and injured

many more in Nepal. And I find that meaningless.

Whisper something close so that I may feel again.  
 

Please let me know someone from the start by detail,

to know what it is

to weep

to know, not a thousand hardly,

 just one truly

and prove a thousand lives of suffering were just tests

leading to a life well lived

 

note: all stories in 'just one, truly' were reported in one issue of The Week spring 2015. 

*'just one, truly' continues posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection.

New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.

practice

 

Practice*

 

Breathing, I twist my body

into awkward positions.

I balance on one leg

 Grizzly playing with her toes - Photo Copyright Tom Murphy / tmurphywild.com

Grizzly playing with her toes - Photo Copyright Tom Murphy / tmurphywild.com

with the other leg in half lotus

and bow forward

touching the ground,

breathing.

I stand on my head, breathing.

 

I pose the dancer. Pretending elegance

 

as balance measures my attention to breath.

 

I run. I ride. I climb to the top of mountains

to see mountains as far as I can see, 

myself as I am, witness to something.

 

Along the way passing whitebark pine, most dying

or already dead, I consider what their exodus means

for mama grizzly who has learned to depend on pine nuts.

 

I think about her babes.

 

With a pause, I catch my breath. 

Again and again. I begin again.

Breathing.

 

 

note: 'Practice' is an excerpt from one of the first Extinction Witness BlogSpot posts, winter 2012.

*'Practice' continues posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection.

Grizzly photo ©Tom Murphy, shared with artist's permission.

New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.

Martha's Prayer

 

Martha's Prayer

 

If I be anyone in this life

let me be a messenger

 Martha's Groom by Denise Monaghan /  denisemonaghan.com

Martha's Groom by Denise Monaghan / denisemonaghan.com

let me write beauty on the sky

let me write a love letter

so wide and deep and long

that it turns day to night

forcing men and women to look up.

 

Let me remind of what is great

and what is small

and if my being is not enough,

if my death is the only reminder

of man' power to exhaust life

 

Let me die; let this love letter

exist in memory, born of experience

 

note: written during a month's witness with passenger pigeon September 2014. September 1st 2014 was the 100th year anniversary of Martha's death. Martha, the last known living passenger pigeon, was born and raised and died in captivity. Hardly a passenger pigeon at all. And still beautifully alive in her own way. RIP Martha. 

*Passenger's Prayer continues posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection.

Denise Monaghan's painting 'Martha's Groom' is shared with artist's permission. 

New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.

melting pot

Melting Pot*

Already she is unrecognizable to herself; homogenized
what defined her in detail, like the limits of the seashore
and edges of life zones by elevation, precise
hexagons of her comb blurred, fixed is in motion
softened down and confused, readied to become. Her tongue
foreign to her speaks for the first time, translates
emotion to syllables to words
Single words with meaning together

and apart,

momentarily meaningless
beyond inflection
Unrecognizable to herself but for this adaptation
some eternal character to be reformed

when water holding her
heats just enough. Frameless she rises to surface
in wait for some genius of hand to shape her
asking as she always does in the meltdown

What shall be kept to remember me by?

 

note: 'Melting Pot' was originally written during a month's witness with endangered languages, autumn 2014. Also posted to the Extinction Witness website in 'Bridge The Gap', with thoughts on on Vision, Privilege & Entitlement is reflected from Interspecies & Intersectional Justice Conference at The Whidbey Institute, Clinton, Washington and Call of the Forest: Water Climate Spirit gathering, Point Reyes Station, California, March 2016.

*'Melting Pot' continues posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection.

This is shared today with prompt from Robert Macfarlane's Word of the day: "sfumato"

New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.

Ishi

 

Ishi*

 

The last one seen alive

died on display

after

he staggered in unarmed,

three years lonely.

 

By then,

he had remembered to forget

the screams of mothers made to watch

their babes busted into bits, after

their forced concession to rape 

and the silence, as shocking, 

following their deaths,

all by blows of the rifle butt

to save bullets.

 

Walking the creek bed

will do that to a child.

Cold water and smooth rock

remind him of his mother

and how she washed his feet

even after he bit her breast

until she bled.

 

The last one seen alive

staggered into the corral politely,

anticipating every kindness.

 

He had lived long enough since

to remember who he was before

the first mother was killed.

 

The refined curious boy named him 'man' 

 

 Ishi by Denise Monaghan / denisemonaghan.com

Ishi by Denise Monaghan / denisemonaghan.com

note: 'Ishi' was written and originally shared in an Extinction Witness post September 2015 along with paintings by Denise Monaghan during a month's witness with primates that considered the roots of violent competition, referencing Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas Emlen.

Born around 1860, Ishi is the last known living member of the Yahi, a small tribe that lived near Mount Lassen in northern California. Theodora Kroeber tells Ishi’s story in her book Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America (1961). In his 2014 SF Gate article, one in a series devoted to San Francisco’s history, Gary Kamiya reflects on how Ishi (‘man’ in Yahi language) acquired a name. Ishi endured the climax of genocide in California. Details in 'Ishi' of the genocide Ishi endured are imagined of brutalities yet witnessed today.

*'Ishi' continues posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection.

Denise Monaghan's portrait of Ishi is shared with artist's permission. 

New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.

In Solidarity I Am

In Solidarity I Am*

Surely I did hunt and gather in the forest
my eyes fastened to the ground
watching the path, searching the edges

spotting small bright shiny things
now bottle caps I cannot eat

and still

I collect them.

In solidarity with albatross, I hunt and gather
saving a few indigestible things from the sea.

And I think I must have been free, as in wild,

once.

Because I have let go of everything and everyone
for the freedom to choose what I serve and how.

In solidarity with wolf, I run steady
toward a son, called Home.

And I know I held the match that burned millions. Yes, something of Hitler is in my soul

and I burned too, after he spread tar in my mouth
for telling the truth.

In solidarity with the solitary prisoner, 

I sit alone with God

in search of understanding

for the harms inflicted by the battered child
harms no man forgives though revenge appeases.

Indeed, I believed peace was possible long ago
and I believe peace is possible today

because peace is with the child
cradled in his mother’s arms

for the first time, he is learning to breathe
with each gurgle she assures him
and with every silence she checks to be sure...
he is breathing, they are breathing together
she is his ocean and he is her river.

In solidarity with the mother, the child
and the breath that joins them
I am this careful peace, a slave to their gravity

the singularity at the center of a black hole

 

note: Written April 2014 as a transition poem between a month's witness with wolf and albatross, 'In Solidarity I Am' is one of few among my poems that's been completed in a flash once the first line appeared and without editing since.

The isolated resilient child is one who has learned to ignore ignorance. Darkness is hardest to resist when locked in a dark room. Yet going totally dark proves the light.

'In Solidarity I Am' begins with reflection on one of the first stories that split me wide open. This, of an albatross mama unable to feed her babe because she had a toothbrush lodged in her throat (TIME magazine / 2000). 'In Solidarity I Am' was offered in an Extinction Witness post along with a message on feeling this pain and facing ourselves and one of Chris Jordan's Albatross photographs. 

*Today begins posting poems written as part of the 2014 - 2015 monthly revolving witness at Extinction Witness while I'm editing a six-year collection. New daily poems resume once the collection goes to the publisher.

 Albatross Photo by Chris Jordan / albatrossfilm.com

Albatross Photo by Chris Jordan / albatrossfilm.com

'In Solidarity I Am' was specifically chosen for this day with the rawness of Nikolas Cruz' self-destruction in a mass shooting February 14, 2018. 

 

 

motherless

 

another word

for senseless

used to describe

a man child

who aims a pistol 

at a woman's womb

whether or not

he pulls the trigger

 

note: prompted by a read of  yesterday's news in The New York Times