Nancy: Boom and bust and the fisheries diminish and disappear – even here. Surprise and disbelief and blame, and keep on doing the same things.
I have eaten the tommycod
and the true cod
and the haddock and the roe
of the haddock and the tuna
and the swordfish and flatfishes
of the western shore and the
eastern shore. I have never
eaten the monkfish. When
the monkfish (about which
we know so little) disappears –
when they go to the fishing grounds
and find no monkfish – when
they drag the bottom and find
no monkfish – when baited hooks
bring up no monkfish – when
the boats go back and forth
pinging and pinging
and the green glow of the CRT
is flat and empty of monkfish
and finally fishermen say
bad year for monkfish
(about which we know almost
nothing) I will say of course
it’s shocking, where did they go?
I have never eaten the monkfish.
Alan: This poem dates to 1973, when humanity needed a major attitude adjustment about its place in the world, something even truer now. I look at it as an Earth Day offering from a sardonic satyr.
The twisted oaks of Ocracoke
dance like sinners on the sly;
Kansas sand and Samarkand
cohabit in Cohasset’s sky.
The captured heat of meat and wheat,
the famished quern of egg and sperm,
sing Sunday psalms reply.
Leonardo’s lordly breath
rolled atoms reeling round the earth;
his musty molecules at death
make elementary a birth.
This phthisic physic of the flesh
must mill the oaks, the wheat, much mirth.
What ardent alchemists of yore
could turn the fertile soil to stones?
We divvy up the spoils of war
and sell at interest what are loans.
The mixture’s more than metaphor:
this mobbed, mad meal of grins and groans:
we breakfast on the dinosaur
and supper on our children’s bones.
“Extinction” first appeared in Fencing Wildness (Slow Dancer Press, 1999)