From “How to Assemble the Animal Globe” (Make Yourself Happy)

Bluebuck

 
its blue

           hue

beckoned
                  to which side

of blue

it had to drink daily

which made it easy     (to shoot)

           eating the best

red grass, spear grass, love grass

blue
from dark skin showing thru

 
If you travel to Uppsalla, Capetown or London you might glimpse one

of the three remaining pairs of horns

A skull in Glasgow, one in Amsterdam

The four mounted specimens (Vienna, Stockholm, Paris, Leiden)

show no sheen of blue

 

 


 

Cape Serval (subspecies, extinct 20th century)

The cat of spare parts1

leaps five feet into the air and can change directions there, snatch a bird

(which, if fowl, it will pluck before eating), hear a mouse

underground, hunt

without seeing its prey


Pounces — 40% effective by day

59% in the night
 

__________________
1 Long legs, enormous ears, long neck, small head, back legs longer than the front.

 

 


 

Bubal Hartebeest (nominate subspecies, North Africa, c. 1925)

As old as Aeschylus, as old as Hebrew and Pliny

“colour uniform pale rufous or fawn,” food to many

“a frequent inhabitant of menageries”                       this

                                                       side of the blue

“But we have seen no skin or skull

of a wild-killed specimen”

when viewed head-on, the horns

formed a U; the last captive female


died November 9, Jardin des Plantes, 1923


Get up, you can see that the people have not respected you, get up


and walk away


sings the hartebeest, according

to oral tradition

 

 


 

Aldabra Brush Warbler (confirmed extinct 1986)

“discovered” in 1967

described in 19682

lost in 1969

found in 19753

gone in 19834

 
__________________
2 based on one nest with a mated pair and three eggs
3 6 individuals, all males
4 last known male expired

 

 


 

Mauritius Blue Pigeon (extinct early 1830s)

The Prince of Orange had one in his menagerie

(for a few months) in 1790, and from this we know

the voice: “a dove-like cooing during the day,

and rows of 10-12 baf calls in the night”


Did it look like the Dutch

flag or the French?  An argument ensued—

Tricolore: head white, tail red, middle blue


It was not, like the pink pigeon (still surviving)

seasonally poisonous or inedible

A Mauritius Blue was meat

for escaped slaves, lost sailors


In 1801, the ship Géographe’s

chief drawer5  (assigned maps and birds) was able to get several for roasting

up in the river gorges, saw

the plucked earth coming

 
__________________
5 Jacques Gérard Milbert, who wrote in his journal: "Il est un point ou...le défrichement doit s'arreter, si l'un ne veut, en peu d'années, voir succéder a un pays verdoyant et fertile, une terre aride et dépouillée."

 

 


 

Steller’s Sea Cow (first seen by Europeans near Bering Island in 1741, extinct by 1768)

By night, the gomuls took to the skies to hunt & returned

with a whale impaled on each enormous finger    The volcanoes

lit up for the roasting    Captain Vitus Bering

landed in a storm  then died       As to his shipmates

the meat of the sea cow kept them alive

Georg Steller drew & described: “Its skin is black and thick, like the bark

of an old oak”;  4-5 fathoms long, 3.5 fathoms round, weight: 200 puds6


It drifted just below the surface of the water close to shore

“a single animal resembled an overturned boat,” and they stripped its skin

for barks


the last cow was killed for its excellent meat

Had they been mistaken for sirens7 would the flesh have been

so sweet
 
 __________________
6 One fathom is 6 feet; 200 puds is about 8,000 pounds.
7 Lonely sailors are said to have mistaken manatees for sirens.

 

Mid 18th century drawing
                               Mid 18th century drawing

 

 


 

Cryptozoology

Poetry runs on gossip, why can’t animals? Phantom

cats (black
                                      panthers and pumas way out of their range)

Honshu and Hokkaido wolves heard howling — breathing — stepping on leaves —

I once saw a white detonation from a telephone wire along the highway near High Falls, NY — a symbolon bursting in the eye —

It was a large raptor, not a speck of rufus/grey seemed to fleck it

Found something close in a bird book — a Gyrfalcon, Old Norse

in name, circling far from its range (the light-colored Gyrfalcon are found in Greenland, aiding

                   crypsis)

                   (= ability to self-conceal: nocturnality, transparency, camouflage and mimicry)

                   cryptid

                   (= how deep do you hide?)


A Gyrfalcon

Lays a golden egg

Wing chord, tarsal, tail and culmen working together for

Swan-hunting in China


A man with a gyrfalcon on his fist

Is rich 

A woman

With a Gyrfalcon on her mind is

Changing the yaw-angle mid flight

 

 


 

Baijii (Lipotes vexillifer) (First described in the Erya, 3BCE, last possible sighting 2007)

Goddess of the Yangtzee

Left-behind flag bearer

A princess thrown to the river by her father for following

            her own counsel

The first Laowai who saw one shot it, shipped it

to the Smithsonian


             “You approach your refined language” and then you

                            move away

 

 


 

Black soft-shell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans)

each turtle

a sinner

saved by a saint

the last party

of saved sinners lives

in a pond by the Chittagong shrine

 

 


 

Japanese River Otter (declared ex. 2012)

 
It ate

eels,

beetles,

crabs, shrimp,

fish,

watermelon and

sweet potatoes

 

 


 

Five poems from Make Yourself Happy

I HAD TAKEN THE LONG WAY HOME, the really long way.


I traveled to the edge of the human continent.  There, I couldn’t tell the difference between the insurgents and the Mennonites.  The Shaker girls wore blue-evening-light dresses and danced in a circle speaking of the widow they had neglected.  We went to the website of all acts of poetry, a huge screen at the very edge of the room, a bit basement, that seemed to grow little by little (would it overwhelm the scene?) when you pointed out to the dawn on the rightside horizon & my eyelashes made a shadow I could see. Will the screen engulf the world
will the web?

was the widow their window?

what is an act of poetry?

Catching the light

with the side

of my eye.

 
the horse says neigh

the human says yeay

a grasshopper, you said

will never be sad.

That’s the first thing.

 

 


 

I WISH YOU a tidy sum of pleasures

say, the syllables of a wolf and their continentally changing vowel and stress; such treasures —

                      but how should we distribute them    across the days?
 

 
 
            as an army of                armadillos       tumbling

            in sunlight          ten thousand

happinesses pluraled up heaped and wait       upon you         the surplus

when the total of pain is subtracted                 from pleasure
(Bain)

the wery hunter to fynd his happy prey
    OR     Any happy concourse of Atoms

He…Weenes yet at last to make a happie hande By bloudie warre
(Gascoigne)
 
           in the felled light                     find you

the happy set of liberty, plenty, and letters
(Middleton)

Hip me how.                           Harmony me

bouncing in the noontime

swoon

when sun

won

all we ever wanted to win honey

suspended in the aspirated day honey                        Have we achieved
            the greatest happiness of the greatest number  (Hutcheson)        the exultant position of the
                                                                                                                             new lover
on the hook of the h just as it leaves the body

Ha

Ha

                                coughs it

                         laughs it


                                                    ha

ppy


                            and so
you happy

                round as a berry

                            or a bug
 
the color happy

                            hanging on a branch
 
   in blue
 
                         you

haul happy around

like a log

 

 


 

TRY to-

day to

make the greater part Oh

Happiness!  Our being’s end and aim!  Good, Pleasure, Ease, Content!  Whate’er

thy name! 
(Pope)        Suddenly

there was a trap
years and running, it was

The American Way.  The prolific birds

gulp grain in the neighbor’s nonspecific yard

& know nothing of it, though the neighbor

who puts seeds in the feeder is scientifically

American. To be

looking past leafless scraggly-ass

branches across an autistic low chain-

link fence prettied up with lattice & into

a strategic American yard?  There is war there.  And a cherry tree.  May I claim

on our small (›1/4 acre) lot another hieroglyphic

territory?  Make a different

happiness list?  There is nothing

to be done about the anachronistic power lines,

the metal chimneys pointing out of roofs like turbine

erections, the 7 billion humans.  Take a lesson

from the squirrels.  They never give

up being squirrels.  About the drug blimps, the dust road smoothed

each night looking for immigrant footprints.  About the war dead and the dark.  Have a

little dark or

have a little dog
(Palace) Have a little squirrel

or have a little twirl (Scarlata remix).  If I can’t occupy America

where can I                             teach

specific felicific calculus

it has come to me to speak

happiness

come to me

when I speak of the world

terrific

 
             happinesse that often madnesse hits

 

 


 

I HAD TAKEN THE LONG WAY home.

As in a dream a woman chasing another

woman cannot reach her, nor can the woman in flight

escape her pursuer, so I never

seem to arrive home    happy

could not overtake

nor could I pull it away, happy or grief         
                                                                                                  stuck to the heart or the face

 
When the great Master of Pursuit

 
Death and when

And when sleep came

brimful of happiness, in a soft bed

 
As in a dream a woman chasing another

cannot reach, so

the mind rushing over life

was trying to feel where the soul was—

base of the skull / top of the neck—no—

that’s just a knot of tense muscle—a

twisted bone.  I take

a twisted bone for home.  Take it home.  I polish it. 

We are a truth for life’s fracking.  I guess.  I caress.

Howl is            short for          how to say
                                                                                  what’s (long i) live
                                                                                  what’s glow

Blest beyond earth’s howling bliss.

 

 


 

BEAUTY ROLLING AROUND in the dust
                                                                        an incandescence between what
 
 
      wanders around among coming to be and decay
 
            it’s only human
 
it’s like the children’s riddle about the eunuch who threw
 
                             something at a bat:
 
 
            A happiness that is not happy throws a shoe that is not a shoe out the window (not a window)             toward the moon (not a moon)
 
            till the echo between moon and not moon made its own mooing called song
 
 

so with so many bigs and smalls and lights and heavies we describe
 
                                                our happy, our pain
  

Apply these names in accordance with the beasts
 
            what it enjoys good

            what angers it bad
 
 
You are the beast, be
 
                                                                   Happy           

 

 


Eleni Sikelianos is most recently the author of The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead (Coffee House Press, 2013). The recipient of numerous honor and awards, she directs the the creative writing program at the University of Denver.

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