The Last Animal Book
What great beasts we ignore,
______counting our appliances, proud
to know a few Latin phrases.
______Quid pro quo—its near symmetry
a stand-in for all the near wins,
______i.e., all the losses. As when we lost
the Barbary lion, its fur no match
______for our progress. But chin up!
If we pay for a ticket, we can know
______its skeleton, sing our praise
to how simulation guesses at muscle,
______gives us hide then the details
of our gone. We can share our lust
______for flesh peeled away, feel like part
of something long enough to forget—
______soon we’ll only have each other
left to kill. Though warned, we turn
______back toward what were our cities,
almost see their spires in the ash.
______We risk our guilt to confirm:
all burning. Have you made a fire before?
______Yes, you have? Then you know its secret,
that our desire can serve a lesser god,
______make homes into sacrifice. We give up
the plains, too, in this vista.
______We know “scorched” when we see it.
And if the cry of some hawk
______breaks through the roar?
It wasn’t a hawk but the slow, sure
______call of our demise.
Inventory at Thirty-Five
We sing the hymns of our youth
______but wrong—the chords too much
for our thin voices to reach.
______How almighty, how everlasting!
Oh. On Tuesday, recycling
______and half-price wind chimes.
On Wednesday, another aisle.
______We take our beetles to the trash
to save our maples then return
______to more carnage. Why tell us
the war ends when the war
______has no beginning and no end?
Traffic cops wave us through
______the school zone. We creep.
Fifteen pairs of shoes but none
______for dancing. Binoculars and rot.
A hard lease through August
______plus a salvaged table
and a set of dull knives.
______Plans for another job interview
with questions not to ask (hypothetical).
______If a gun goes off, does your policy
state under desk or through an exit?
______Don’t say gun next to children.
What gun? What children?
______The only ones here are invisible.
Oil & Water
I sweat through my best dress,
______say thank goodness to the cashier
who tells me it wasn’t always so hot,
______not as pretty either, he assures me.
I wonder if he means the refineries,
______and God bless, he’s right about their glow,
the perpetual flame not so much honor
______as emergency, a stopgap in case
the worst happens as it happens
______more often now. Or money,
all those lights churning out jobs
______in a town that doesn’t need bait anymore.
Feet wet with film that won’t scrub off—
______nobody comes near me,
but I survived my childhood bullies,
______and I’ll survive this shunning, too.
When asked to say something
______at the funeral, I worry I’ll miss
the anecdote that makes everyone
______feel better for a second. Here’s another:
The last explosion caught him
______by surprise, and the O of his mouth
made a portal to a better world
______for those who believe we can put down
our solvents for a spell, put on
______our shiniest shoes while we mourn.