505 Readings

What We’ve Lost

To land reclamation in Russia, The Caspian Tiger
whose usefulness was outweighed by cotton crops.
To the widespread introduction of firearms
in the Middle East, the Arabian Ostrich.
To museum curiosity, the last Great Auk
whose eggs were precious to curators.
To lamplight and oil, the Caribbean Monk Seal.
To colosseum games, the elephants of Carthage and Rome.
Birds, like the Miller’s Rail, known to us only
through 18th century paintings. Or the Tanna Ground-Dove
which survives through a single watercolor portrait,
though even that is wearing away. To industrialization,
The Baiji, the Chinese River Dolphin
whose name meant “left behind.” To hunting,
the Saudi Gazelle, the Sea Mink, the Bali Tiger,
the Barbary Lion, the Western Black Rhinoceros,
and the last of the Mauritian Duck, its bones
occasionally found still coupled with rifle shells.
To gluttony, the Guam Flying Fox. To boredom
and a squadron’s target practice at the Liancourt Rocks
the Japanese Sea Lion. Five species of hummingbird,
one whose wings were sprinkled with cinnamon brown.
The entire genus Thylacinus.
White-Footed Rabbit Rat, Great Silver Bear,
Darling Downs Hopping Mouse, Sturdee’s Pipistrelle
(thought to be a myth long before it was lost).
To years of complacency the Sawfish, the Ridley,
the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Louisiana’s Brown Pelicans.
But wretched thing that I am, I will not make apologies. 
There was something, something of myself that I lost
long ago, and mercy is no longer a part of my nature.

Posted 08/26/10
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