Thursday, May 21, 2015


(or, Things That Were)

The aurochs and the Irish Elk,
bluebuck and the red gazelle,
western black rhinoceros,
the grey atlantic whale
dodo and the thylacine,
the broad-faced potoroo,
the Puerto Rican flower bat--
ghosts in Melinoe's zoo,

Jamaican petrel, painted vulture
night heron of Ascension;
of butterflies the Xerces Blue,
and unsilvered fritillary,
the paradise birdwing 
and clouded apollo,
gone, long gone
as things got hollow--

Appalachian yellow asphodel,
the Cuban Ruta tree,
Mason River myrtle, the
pelea that bore a cross,
begonia of the wooly stalk,
Galapagos amaranth,
Saint Helena's heliotrope--
gone past harvest hope,

Your eyes, your hand,
the coiled asp that dozed
on Cleopatra's broken breast,
the crumbled temple-grave
useless as a camel hat, the bones
tipped over the rim of the world
again and again tossed in eons' ash-can,
extinguished and cured--

the warm rush, the sun-smile,
half-remembered harmonic
of a cry that isn't there, violet-blue
chambered shell in cartilage cage
beating out in grey plumes the
tender parts that once we grew
amber ripe to rusty age,
ossified to fossils now --

~May 2015

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Fireblossom Friday
The ingenious and inventive mind of  Shay Simmons (Shay's Word Garden) sends us off into the endless possibilities of lists. Mine is pretty self-explanatory.

Process notes All the animals, birds, butterflies and plants named here are drawn from (wikipedia's) lists of extinct species.

Melinoe was a Greek goddess of the underworld and also had characteristics of a moon goddess.  '[her] connections to Hecate and Hermes suggest that she exercised her power in the realm of the soul's passage....she brings night terrors to mortals by manifesting in strange forms, "now plain to the eye, now shadowy, now shining in the darkness," and can drive mortals insane'~wikipedia

Image: Megaloceros, from Lascaux cave, public domain via wikimedia commons
Horned woman, artist unknown, via the internet. No copyright infringement intended.


  1. what an excellent choice of list.. indeed self explanatory, but what's intriguing is how your set the theme fore each stanza gradually moving to the tragedy of animals and life, the world around us, to the personal and intimate...

  2. Wow...I should do-over ;) Your list poem is inspiring, Hedge.

  3. So sad. The first three stanzas especially - the music in the way that you combine the names is a palpable dirge; the names themselves are so beautiful. (I saw a performance piece earlier this year in which extinct species were scrolled over a backdrop. It was also heartbreaking, but of course, did not have the specific music you have conjured.)

    It is so interesting for it to then pivot towards something more personal, although I'm not sure that the fourth stanza is personal so much as epic or mythic--I don't think the asp is endangered (I checked) but it seems to me that the asp on the breast is a very intense symbol--I suppose of suicide, and that certainly seems to fit with the killing of all those species--the crumbling temple-grave seems somehow to me at least like Jesus's tomb, and the relative uselessness of rebirth in the situation that you describe--I am likely going over the top here--ha--but this whole stanza felt to me like an ode to the vanities of men, gone down the tubes, as it were, and of course, this could also be one man--as useless as a camel hat--now that sounds great! But I don't know this expression. I like it though- I have to think that it is useless in that I cannot imagine someone actually being able to put a hat on a camel--on the other hand, I'd rather like a burberry camel hat! (Sorry--couldn't resist.) The end is very elegiac, only that shell in the cage feels an awfully lot like a bullet. My loosely-boundaried brain can't help but think of the poor passenger pigeons that were so decimated in this country, but that is undoubtedly not where you are going! Anyway, it is very effective--and the poor plants of course. One feels a bit like the warm rush and sun smile have been replaced by something rather hotter--too bad for us.
    The dust throughout and rhymes/fossil ossified etc--all wonderful. k.

    I am sorry as I am afraid to reread comment for fear of losing. Forgive incoherence. k .

  4. The first two stanzas brought tears to my eyes. At least we know the names. And then, the harvest hope gone, the turn to the personal brought a different mood because the memories are so real--or closer--and in the final stanza, I felt things lived are never completely gone, not yet. And then I know we are to be part of a layered dust, a long line of dust, a thanatopsis of dust. That lifted my spirit, though the full implications of a complete extinction has yet to hit me. Beautiful sounding of words and cadence throughout--a masterful puzzle.

  5. Beautiful piece of work..! :D
    Loved it..!

  6. My God, things going extinct even as we read. You nailed it, Joy. Powerfully.

  7. What can be grieved that isn't named? That is the bittersweet pleasure of reading this bestiary of losses -- a dance around the dark door hinged by Melinoe (never heard of her, thanks). There's sleep, there's death and there's extinction, which I believe is the dust-trail here. Each animal is so well-named that we can see 'em on Lascaux's walls, evidence of a fullness lost so long ago. And the singer adds herself to the list, the life and love that arteried what now is rust soon dust. Amen. Very well done Hedge.

  8. What a poignant piece of writing this is, Joy. Sadly, achingly beautiful, in the way that sad things often are. You have merged the natural and the personal worlds together here, all to the same end, the one that awaits us all. But it is not simply age that's the heart breaker here, it's the loss of something vital and valuable that won't be coming back. Thanks so much for writing this for my challenge.

  9. I am not sure which would be sadder -- the ones we still know names for, or the ones that we did not even know existed that were wiped away. Very effective with the opening lists of those that have passed over into extinction. What will we add this year. And what of the things in our personal life as well that pass away and are now unrecoverable.

  10. Oh, hell. How did you do this? This is so musical! Really incredible, beautiful work, Hedge.

  11. Each subsequent stanza seemed to peel an additional layer from my heart, and when you brought your list closer to home, it was more painful still... Too much is lost from the world, and even from the life of a single person there is a kind of whittling away.

  12. Wow, that is a haunting list of extinction. So sad to see it listed like that. Makes it more real somehow. The repetition of 'dust' is extremely effective and powerful and I love the line, "Gone past harvest hope." Wow.

  13. as with most incantations, this reverberates on the surrounding walls, we supplicants hoping (but knowing) that with the echoes go the spirits: both, silent, in the end. dust. powerful, and also thanks for Melinoe, I had not know her. I wonder (but won't check) if this is a root of melancholy... and as to gaps... I did not know mine would spill into one, nor do I anticipate more to follow. thanks for coming by... ~

  14. We read about it, we witness it, and we will be gone, too, soon enough....change is always happening. But what a disgrace for what we have done, or haven't done. I loved your list!

  15. As others have said - musical, incantatory, heart-breaking, masterly. I'm afraid I read the last two verses as even more doom-laden, not hopeful as some have taken them. I thought you were pointing to the extinction even of great love, even of one's own most intense life experiences, as if they had never been.

    1. That was actually my intent Rosemary. Thank you.

  16. And to think of all the species to be added to the list in short order. This is really powerful, Joy.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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