Bronx Zoo, Alexis Rockman, 2012-13
Hawksbill sea turtle
The list of endangered species keeps growing longer every year. With too many names to hold in our mind, how do we honor the passing of life? What funerals or farewells are appropriate?
Dive me deep, brother whale, in this time we have left. Deep in our mother ocean where I once swam, gilled and finned. The salt from those early seas still runs in my tears. Tears aren’t enough anymore. Give me a song, a song for a sadness too vast for my heart, for a rage too wild for my throat.
Giant sable antelope
Ooze me, alligator, in the mud whence I came. Belly me slow in the rich primordial soup, cradle of our molecules. Let me wallow again, before we drain your swamp and pave it over.
Quick, lift off. Sweep me high over the coast and out, farther out. Don’t land here. Oilspills coat the beach, rocks, sea. I cannot spread my wings glued with tar. Fly me from what we have done, fly me far.
West African ostrich
Mexican prairie dog
Hide me in a hedgerow, badger. Can’t you find one? Dig me a tunnel through leaf-mold and roots, under the trees that once defined our fields. My heart is bulldozed and plowed over. Burrow me a labyrinth deeper than longing.
San Francisco garter snake
Lotus blue butterfly
Crawl me out of here, caterpillar. Spin me a cocoon. Wind me to sleep in a shroud of silk, where in patience my bones will dissolve. I’ll wait as long as all creation if only it will come again — and I take wing.
Atlantic ridley turtle
Swim me out beyond the ice floes, mama. Where are you? Boots squeeze my ribs, clubs drum my fur, the white world goes black with the taste of my blood.
Sway me slowly through the jungle. There still must be jungle somewhere, my heart drips with green secrets. Hose me down by the waterhole; there is buckshot in my hide. Tell me old stories while you can remember.
In the time when his world, like ours, was ending, Noah had a list of the animals, too. We picture him standing by the gangplank, calling their names, checking them off on his scroll. Now we also are checking them off.
Indus river dolphin
West Indian manatee
We reenact Noah’s ancient drama, but in reverse, like a film running backwards, the animals exiting.
Your tracks are growing fainter. Wait. Wait. This is a hard time. Don’t leave us alone in a world we have wrecked.