Thylacine – by Susan Richardson

On the 80th anniversary of the death in captivity of Benjamin the last known thylacine, poetry communicates some of the mystery of this creature and its story. Here is Thylacine by Susan Richardson, nature poet and co-editor of Zoomorphic magazine:

i was per-

haps. i am may-

be. Was nearly now, al-

most then. Ex-

tant, ex-

tinct, just visiting, dithering

with existence. Am

listed as critical. Was

history. Soon rumoured.

i am virtually non- un- on

the brink of unique,

(in)conceivably, (un)feasibly

a one-, two-, none-off.

Am RIP. Yet just as i re-

ceive a cairn of commemoration

i glimpse myself from the cor-

ner of my eye and


it was about ten metres away when I first noticed it. Sun was going down and I was stuffed after walking all day so I was waiting by the stream for Jase to put up the tent and make a fire and whatever the fuck else he does when he says it’s time to camp. Thought it was a dog at first – it was about the size of Jase’s sister’s Lab, the one that flobs all over you, kind of pale like a Labrador too, but then I saw the stripes, and its body looked weird – like heaps longer than it should’ve been. I was too freaked to move, just sat there, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even reach in my shorts for my phone. And just when I’m thinking I’m so going to pass out here, it turns round and disappears into the bush. And soon as it’s gone, Jase comes over – took his fucking time – and says I’ve got the fire going, Soph. This place is unreal!…Aw, what’s up? You look like you’ve seen a


dog- wolf-headed,

zebra- tiger-rumped.

i have bygonned

my image

on the rock. They called me

coorina, loarinna,

chimerical miracle.

i am thresh- flesh-

holding, solid as persecution,

dwelling in the realm

of (im)possibility where

there are fewer eucalypts

than there ever used to be.

Was i a clever fake? The proof

is (in)conclusive. My

marsupial pouch holds

only fables now –

the bandicoot i toss

to see which way it lands,

stars miraging

the loss of my before

after. Yet as i dis-

locate my jaw

with a phantom yawn a scream,

i dream clean pugmarks

in the mud and


mate, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was gone midnight, I’d skulled a few beers and was driving home over the Burrenbidgee. Parked by the bridge and got a pretty good squiz – it was standing there, ears up, tail out stiff like the tail of a roo – and then I thought I’d hop out the van and get a bit closer.  Mate, if I’d only had the three-oh-eight Winchester with me – guys spend years out in the bush trying to bag one of these bastards. Tried to film it on my phone before it shot through, but it was too shit-dark to see, so I grabbed my torch from the van and hunted round for a while and found what I reckon was a paw print. Soon as I got home, I googled it and, mate, I was


right wrong (un)thinkable,

(un)imaginable, (barely)

credible, a twilit inter-

stitial wish delivered

by the (un)conscious mind.

Whistle me up, make me limbo

liminal (in)visible,

see what you expect

hope grope to see. Am

psychopomp, tulpa,

(preter)natural personal guide.

Was a figment

of my hallucinationimagination.

(Not even) quasi-




German poetry site Fixpoetry has shared Der Beutelwolf, Mikael Vogel’s German-language poem about the thylacine, in honour of the anniversary. The poem comes from Dodos auf der Flucht (Dodos On The Run), Mikael’s book of poetry on extinct and endangered animals, which will come out next spring.

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