a friend of mine wrote this poem which appeared in gloom cupboard. i have been granted her permission to share it; posting it here also lets me keep an archive of it without cluttering my bookmarks or having to scroll through gloom cupboard’s mass of nice writing.
Signs of Being an Endangered Species
by Heather Reddy
I mean, I haven’t heard
the word “unnatural”
Raccoons saunter onto the porch
in the mornings, daring me to tell
them they’re nocturnal, refusing to
even squint as they stare
directly into the gray dawn.
And 2 death-moths that look like
baby vultures, circle above my bed. I will
dream of a swarm of them nights later in some one else’s bed.
They are powder wings and buzzard head on my logic
textbook, bolting awake to pretend I’m not trembling.
I keep saying, I’ve got to get out
of this city. My teaching visa
came pasted in an alphabet
of blood-smelling glue and royal
blue ink. I won’t use it. See, this is
already my second language, I am
saying to myself: barely clever, lying.
i like the poem because of its extreme ambiguity. the title initially leads us to think the poem will be about an alienation, an isolation, even a possible extinction. however, each human being, that is, each human who chooses to be is always-already an endangered species. HR is no exception to this: her choice to be comes at great physical-psychical cost. the decision to “choose to be” is opposed to the accidental nature of existence: no one chooses to exist. so the poem, far from being about alienation or isolation really communicates the solidarity between beings who choose to be, who do not merely accept the accident of their existence (though to be fair, this is the first step in choosing to be).
the first stanza sets the tone for the whole poem, with emphasis on the word “unnatural.” in the second stanza, we have plural raccoons certainly in no danger of being endangered – yet acting in a completely unnatural way. there is also the unidentified number of raccoons there are, unlike the exactly 2 death moths that appear in stanza the third.
and in the transition from each of the stanzas there is a diminishing effect: the first stanza, we have “ages”; second stanza “raccoons”; third stanza “2 death moths”; and finally, we end up with simply the narrator.
more could be said about this poem but i think this is enough for now.