Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

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500 Million Years Ago

in Environment by

I tried giving you the polar bear,
but the polar bear was too busy
with bird eggs. Evolution, he says,
is more beautiful than god.

Through the eyes of an astronaut,
I’m throwing bodies of bighorn sheep
back into the river. I’m using someone
else’s fish to lure the whale bones from
every mountain.

For eleven months, everywhere we walk
the trees turn purple. God of the white wolf.
God of the flash flood. God of the windshield,
the burrowing owl, of the hunters
returning with parts of coyote,
of dog.

God of very special circumstances,
the first nuclear weapon, god of finding water
where there once was water. It was summer
and the horses’ legs broke again and again.

Through the eyes of an astronaut,
we’re dropping bombs on the blue whale,
this Valley of Fire. Imagine the Earth
as prey. The blue whale’s brain broken
and bruised by ships— god of the desert
landscape never tasted by sharks.

From the edge of a sea crumbling cliff,
I cannot ungive you god,
its 6500 lb. skull,
the screams of the mother bird
from oceans away. If any part of it dies,
it all dies.



Sarah Bates has an MFA in Poetry from Northern Michigan University and currently teaches at Southern Utah University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, The Rumpus, and Seneca Review, among others. Her manuscript, Tender, is forthcoming from Diagram New Michigan Press.

Image by NASA.


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