The Tasmanian Wolf, and You

Suspended mid-stride

in a Plexiglas box compact as a kennel,

the world’s last Tasmanian Wolf,

lithe as a coyote, pale as surrender,

stared into a stairwell of the American

Museum of Natural History,

and I stood, useless mourner,

before its reconstructed presence,

jostled by patrons rushing

to more spectacular displays—

blue whale hovering,

improbable as a dirigible,

grimacing totems, dioramas’

pastel deserts rivaling

any Hollywood set,

the Tasmanian Wolf enduring

just beyond those sloping

marble steps—till one afternoon

the Plexiglas box was gone,

and no sleepwalking guard

could direct me to its new station,

one beige-uniformed man finally

recalling, with somber authority,

Oh yeah, that thing. We had to put it

in storage. Extinction, then,

not the final insult, and only this

remaining—that the Tasmanian Wolf,

stripes fanning down its sides,

tight, marsupial pouch padding

its belly; the Tasmanian Wolf,

able to rise up on hind legs

like an Egyptian god—head

of a dog, body of a man—and scan

the horizon; the Tasmanian Wolf

is absent from its eucalyptus-tangled

island, absent from the concrete

of zoos and stairwells of museums,

absent from the atmosphere

and oxygen where it swirled

into shape over millions of years—

but I can see

those glass eyes gleaming

in the dark of a storage closet,

and the frosty walls

of that Plexiglas box holding

everything that’s forever

lost, no magic able to animate

that synthetic gaze, and no harm

in mourning the irretrievable—

love discarded, kindness

withheld. Measure the damage

your life’s amassed, but leave

your loss in dark storage,

and find something

worth saving.

The New Guard Literary Review, a finalist in the Knightville Contest judged by Donald Hall, and Heirloom Bulldog