Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

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The Latest Extinction

in Environment/Wildfires by

Australia is burning, and daughter
I think about the rare dunnart
in its wobbling through charred leaves.

In a mother’s way, I want
to spread my body as a bridge
to carry it safely to coast,

but the fire would still burn us all.
Even you, my girl, in all
your new skin and loose teeth.

I will try to hold the dunnart’s fur
on my tongue, tell you how
it mirrored the soft brown of sand.

When I describe its front pouch,
how the body resembled a common
mouse with ears tipped like a fox,

you will wonder if it was ever real.
You will draw it in blue, give it wings
as you would any mythic thing.

I watch this inferno like a war,
tally the death tolls of koala and kangaroo.
Still, there are the empty burrows

and lists of names I want to carve
into trees. Is this the worst part? This
instinct to pay homage by cutting into flesh.

Daughter, I break when I imagine
the dunnart’s young jumping into sea,
as children might jump from a burning house.

I check the smoke detectors outside
your room, listen for the crackling
pop of a fire in our walls.

 

________

Christen Noel Kauffman lives in Richmond, Indiana with her husband and two wild girls. Her work can be found in Willow Springs, Booth, Cherry Tree, The Cincinnati Review, Glass: Poets Resist, and DIAGRAM, among others.

________

‘Silent death’: Australia’s bushfires push countless species to extinction
[The Guardian]

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