From A FIELD GUIDE TO PEOPLE
Sometimes you see something so
dreadful that the mind’s camera snaps a shot,
shoots a video of the scenario,
lasers it into your retina’s screen on the spot,
impaled in you for as long as you live:
the memory of a teacher thrashing a pupil, a tot,
or the elephant Dan and I saw given a sedative
so she could rest, sleep, that time in Dublin Zoo.
The aged female was trapped in a repetitive
back and forth on her haunches, unable to
stop herself, a tormented beast of Orcus.
Her attendant explained, feeding her bamboo,
“It was her one way to move, trapped in the van of a circus
so long. Rescuing her was the zoo’s onus and sad bonus.”
In January 2000, the Pyrenean ibex (Spanish common name ‘bucardo’) became extinct. Scientists cloned DNA from a last female.
In the end, no cliff or impossible crag
could save them from plantation or gun.
Their heads hang on walls. Hunters brag.
Many were taken down for sheer fun.
The king pucks — their antler plumes
rising magisterially — plugged one by none.
Gone the clash of horn scimitars, grooms
battling to mate, the bucardo of lore.
White-coated gods in lab rooms
summoned one back from the dark shore
of the underworld. They should have known
from the ancient myths what was in store.
She returned after seven minutes, lone clone,
relieved to be back among the herds of her own.
The Jellyfish Tree
Medusagyne returned from the underworld,
one of the few, hanging by its fingertips to granite
cliff, remnant and revenant of the Gondwana world
on Mayé island: a natural hieroglyph
of a time before our time, a beauty
before our beauty. It is as if
she’s betting her time will come again, a tree
better suited to aridity, not the sweaty air
of this archipelago, such temerity.
She is called after a goddess of fear,
gorgonian, guardian, protectress,
apotropaic, Medusa herself. Best not stare
at her head hanging from the hand of Perseus,
out of which sprang the pinioned-horse, Pegasus.
The corpse flower, a flower straight out of hell
on earth, not one to give your wife or mother
come Valentine’s Day, or wear on your lapel.
Though the sight of this particular flower’s
measled, fleshy-skinned, monstrous petal
wouldn’t help you any, what overpowers
is the stench of rotting flesh and organs: Chanel
de Cadaver, Bouquet Putrid, Carrion Mystique,
Essence de Carcass, Versense Pew, Allure Impossible,
luring every bug in the vicinity to the reek,
unable to resist entering the rank volcano
of this hotty, and hey presto, another sprouts in a week.
Meanwhile, the forests of Sumatra and Borneo
are being cleared. Ergo the corpse flower also.