Volume 23, Number 4

Still Life

Abcessed, the Arctic ice puddles
            to black. Its albedo zeroes.

Bufo periglenes: golden bodies enamel-
            bright, last seen May 15, 1989.

The Comma invades & closes
            its wings as if to camouflage

flickering duet of flame. It plays
            dead, old leaf ready to drop.

Even the dogs were wearing masks,
            she says, enveloped in an early

season of forest-fed smoke. Fairbanks
            ringed in a fog of record fires.

Gone: red-bellied gracile opossum,
            bluebuck, the Colombian grebe.

How worried should we be?
            How lucky do you feel?

Inupiat for ice: sikuliaq, young ice; sarri,
            pack ice; tuvaq, land-locked ice.

Is there a word for this jigsawed
            melt? Jolt of jackhammer to floe.

Newton’s parakeet, desert rat-kangaroo,
            Hawkins’ rail, olive ibis—

lost as Louisiana’s wetlands:
            a football field’s length every 38

minutes. Methane rising
            out of the Strodalen mire;

no one knows how much carbon
            nests there, suspended,

only waiting for the match. Or how
            to put it out.

Projection: canary in the coal mine comes
            to mind. Planetary demise.

Queen of Sheba’s gazelle, great
            auk, New Zealand quail, the dodo.

Research shows 16% of elected Republicans
            are unaware ‘climate change’

is synonymous with ‘global warming,’
            says Public Opinion Quarterly’s poll.

The permafrost’s sickle, bearing down.
            The threshold. The heat of darkness.

IUCN Red List: white ferula mushroom,
            European ground squirrel, silver

thistle. This is vespers. This is the bell.
            This is the only vessel.

What is one more bottle of water,
            what could one more matter?

Extinct: turquoise-throated puffleg, ecstasy,
            the exact blue scent of snow

you knew in your childhood. All
            you have is yearning, is vacant,

is ascension’s night heron.
            Its zenith, zero hour. Its abacus.

—Rebecca Dunham