Ceres in the Mass Extinction

by Anne Barngrover Issue: Fall/Winter 2019 Special Issue on Margins

Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history—and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely
-UN Report from Paris, May 6, 2019

I’d like to say we would’ve fought a war
                                                                if that had happened here, but the truth 
is we, too, wove lies with our looms 

                          and called it breaking             news. Those random apostrophes in grammar—
everything is possessive.         Everything belongs to someone else
                                                                                                 but no one wants to pay.

The answer to how could you?                         will never come, so I learned to stop asking.
                                                                                Some people want to suck 
out their own contagion and cast it onto corpse

                                                                      flowers, wild rice, and the star-shaped heads
 of Georgia Aster—a bridesmaid blue
                                                                      that perfumes shaded edges and rights-of-way.

Cast it onto dark-eyed porpoises                        shy deer with solitary horns
                                          redfish and rockfish                       the one they consider a good friend.

It doesn’t make sense                             and now I feel a particular kind of pain:

                                                                    you hurt me
to prove how consuming yours became.
                                                                                 How does it help me to say you love me still?
Earth folds over herself like punched and fermented dough.
                                                    Look at your pain now.

Gone are the fluorescent amphibians.           Gone is the Large White butterfly

                                                     its wings a lucent invitation you won’t ever receive.
Gone are the muscular cats from your wall art
                                                    and the rasped sonata in high fields.

Gone are the coral reefs, hot colors blinking out                      each death a porch light
               we won’t drink under anymore.                      Even sand disappears 

the way I do as you draw 
                                        what you need from me then flick off your brain: 

not here enough to be the same                                     not gone enough for you to care.

Anne Barngrover

Anne Barngrover's most recent poetry collection, Brazen Creature, was published in 2018 by University of Akron Press and is a finalist for the 2019 Ohioana Prize for Poetry. She is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she is on faculty for the low-residency MA program in Creative Writing, and lives in Tampa, Florida.