There is a tortoise on a volcanic island older than one hundred years, and
There is a thumb-sized bee deep in a disappearing forest, and
There is a 14-foot sturgeon swimming in the Hudson, and
Scientists call them rediscoveries, recoveries,
But I am tired of the eyes that find, that name, that label: hope—
One old tortoise found and caught and set to future breeding for our sins.
I wish that I was not myself, but that old tortoise
And could write the poem
Of a hundred-year-old mind
Full to crescent.
Or I’d be the bee and document the work-
Ing of the jaw, carrying resin, wood
To build a home, What does that feel like?
Moving your life with your chin?
How does it feel
To muscle 14 feet of body through the deep,
In cold and murk?
I plunge and feel silence,
But do you hear the wrinkles in the water’s silk?
It is so usual, down here—
The day’s commute, on the only line you know,
The grit of mud like diesel whiffed from the sidewalk,
Present, but ignored.
I am weary of our view of strangeness.
It is so dull, fading where it’s pinned in the cabinet.
I would like to write the normal,
The daily life of the undiscovered creature
Unaware of its rarity,
Of its trudging, buzzing, swimming on the edge
Of our apocalypse.
No, I wouldn’t like to write at all.
I’d like to listen.
Give the pen to beak, to fin, to mandible,
Let them express a consciousness I could not translate.
But even that’s too much of a display,
Too much a forcing of a dialogue on human terms.
The best I can do is leave them be, safe even from my wonder.
Image John Van Denburgh