BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – by Megan Hollingsworth

The last of the mighty big and free were prisoners guarded with guns,

the named among popular relics saved for trophies

like swaths of impressive land and sea

or captive specimens locked in laboratory cages

within rooms without windows.

 

And they were all whats

And they were all its

Some to be tagged, released, and watched

 

Why? Because the body’s pleasure had been denied

Sanctity? Because, after being treated as an object

forgetting all souls housed,

someone claimed the body an object

nothing more than material to be used, maybe,

and more, a curiosity to be observed

in a photograph pinned to the wall

now pornographed on screen

 

Child sex trophies along with wives

for the successful

not so different at root

than skulls placed in plastic bags

on shelves

labels noting where they were found,

an estimate of when they were killed

 

All too common to count,

the fortunately unfortunate heartsease got away

 

 

Author’s Note: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a 2017 revision of a poem written in 2014 during a month’s witness with rhinoceros and thoughts on the militarization of species conservation. As well, why some humans protect who they do. And they were ‘whats’ is in reference to Maya Lin’s last memorial, What Is Missing? And they were ‘its’ is in reference to the description of Ilin Bushy-tailed Cloud Rat at IUCN Red List. Heartsease, Viola tricolor, also known as Johnny Jump up heart’s ease, heart’s delight, tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, come-and-cuddle-me, three faces in a hood, and love-in-idleness, is a common European wildflower, growing as an annual or short-lived perennial introduced to and spread in North America.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is offered for Indigenous People’s Day as the ‘why and how’ of who gets protected and what communities ‘reserved’ is fresh in my mind following a visit to Yellowstone National Park with my son September 30th, 2017 – National Public Lands day and one of the annual free-entrance days for National Parks. With intent to show my son the Lower Falls and perhaps share the experience I had seeing the view for the first time in 1994, the day visit was bittersweet.

When I first visited Yellowstone with my mother while on summer vacation from college, I was uninformed of how U.S. National Parks, spurred by the cutting of giant sequoia during the California Gold Rush, came into existence through continued forced removal of native peoples. I had also not yet experienced living in forest homestead or extended periods wandering Wilderness. The time in the Park on September 30th was very much what visiting the Park has felt like since being informed of genocide and these personal experiences of immersion in community. To me, the Park feels like a zoo or museum with charismatic community members like relics on display. Captives, like famous actors and musicians, mobbed when they appear.

Along with the urgent need for preservation of all remaining intact ecological communities, the ‘us and them’ practice of species conservation and community preservation needs to end. And the ‘half-Earth’ meme clearly emphasise the reintegration of human lifeways to established reserves where peoples have been removed in the course of establishment. Just as the whole of ecological community needs to be integrated in urban centers in the vein of ‘win-win ecology’.

I imagine the time when all humans again experience themselves indigenous – as participants in biologically diverse community rather than as guests and observers of ‘wildlife’ and ‘nature’. Because we humans are participants in biologically diverse community. Biodiversity is social diversity. And there is no escaping that reality. This is painfully obvious as everyone suffers and whole communities fail when humans neglect responsibility to care for those vulnerable in our midst.

On our way into the Park, my son and I happened to stop for a lunch break along Gardiner River just before bighorn sheep arrived for a drink and the crowd arrived to photograph them. As we were headed home, we chanced to see two black at separate points, though near one another, both surrounded and traffic stalled. I did not stop and did my best to explain why to my son, who is seven years old.

Looking out into the canyon from Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park

My son was less impressed by the grandness of the Lower Falls than with the spaces he could fit inside, and tiny rocks and sticks and clay he found on trail.

One thought on “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – by Megan Hollingsworth

  1. Kate Wegrzyn says:

    Thank you for the journey to Yellowstone!
    We walk through the historical detachment of European rom the Value of Indigenous People and their Natural environment , as the greed of “Manifest Destiny” during the Gold Rush left scars .
    The memory of your childhood visit, then revisiting with your son is poignantly described through your photography of grandiose Nature and words of his fun fitting in small places .
    I would love to read your conversation about not stopping with the crowds along the road.

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