*The title comes from a painting I saw several years ago by Walton Ford.
I don’t think this poem is actually finished, or particularly good, but I wanted to mark the passing of our P-22 in some way.
We are very clever.
We can build our way into any mess imaginable.
Nobody really means to extinct a species;
we get myopic, self-interested.
We don’t zoom all the way out.
We over-hunt, we leech poison into the river,
we leave behind field-dressing leftovers full of lead
with no thought for the scavengers that clean up after us.
What’s one bullet, what’s ten, what’s ten thousand-
what’s a little rat poison between friends?
Or we choke off ranges with highways;
dry rivers of Rush and Plow and Charge
creating islands separating could-be mates.
A mountain lion may pad her way across
ten lanes of off-peak-hour traffic
but she’s still taking her life in her paws.
California condor numbers bottomed out in 1987
but because we are very clever,
we might be able to build our way out of this mess after all.
In 30 years, just shy of my lifetime,
Their numbers have increased over 1600 percent.
It’s not quite 500 individuals, but look,
condors fly free over their old ranges again,
because we are working hard to ameliorate the situation,
placing faith that one wildlife crossing will make way for more;
bridges between islands.