On Touching a Woolly Mammoth’s Tooth

He had six sets of these; it’s not easy
to feed on shrubbery.

This one’s deep-ridged and so suggests
its owner met an early death.

It feels like rock, but my touch
can’t signal back much;

there’s a lot I miss,
just as extinction slipped his notice.

For all that big brain, his death was news
and now this tooth, scarcely used.

Poor creature, like me, his home
a shaky island in a sea unknown.


Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Feet wet in the morning rush
alert to what the tide brings,

he allows me to gaze,
holds his head as if to say

Yes, this yellow top-knot,
flare of backward flightless feathers,

is strange, but watch.
The day will deliver.

Later, generalists
will prevail:

crows and rats, gulls
in regulation grays and blacks

like humorless Puritans,
opportunists that prey

on eccentrics and raid
their guileless nests.

The tides themselves already
gather bile, baleful forces

heedless of his delicate life,
his silly headgear,

his useless call uttered
only on ritual occasions.


Hello island, lucky in sea breeze and light,
late to electricity, to scooter putt putt
now along the latest sea wall where we,
so tall, walk shod so well,
watching ruins of the last wall
lipped by a milk-mild sea
without commentary.

Here we are up early looking for things
redolent of religious dread,
of the path paved in crushed shells
that leads to the shrine of Ixchel,
for hints of lives passed in one place,
Mayan mysteries hidden under hats and shirts
bearing the names of our teams.

We have an eye out for the sacred sparrows,
for the straw children still tucked sometimes
along the temple trail by the barren credulous,
small pilgrims among the tourists.
We regret the smallpox, the coral reefs
now paled from waters too warm —
we didn’t mean to harm—

Your sunset was huge from the pizza place.
This morning, mountainous cruise ships
will ease into the horizon, unmoored
cities filled with more such as us, ready
to buy and buy, particularly any silver stuff
certified hand-wrought, bought
by our long winters, our boredom.