The Po’ouli

(listed as extinct in 2018)

 

Little black-headed song

bird, discovered

only recently—1973,

the year Secretariat won

the Triple Crown—so much

relentless muscle

 

racing a circle

while this cryptic bird

flitted up Haleakala’s

steep slope—moss-tangled,

dripping ferns—snapping up

snails and waxworms.

 

Now imagine this:

a last ditch effort,

venturing across

the volcanic crater

with padded boxes,

hoping to catch

 

the last three

specimens—perhaps

a breeding pair—

256 birds captured, but no

Po’ouli—fifteen years

later they would declare

 

the bird extinct—another

in a long line lost

to invasive species,

disease,

and habitat destruction.

The people who tried

 

to save this little bird

are immune

to despair—

they suspend

themselves

from ropes,

 

pollinate flowers

when the pollinators

have died—

they trek

the rainforest

playing calls

 

from long dead birds,

but you, little bandit,

refuse the call—

there is no hope

but we can’t help

ourselves,

 

we believe in miracles—

a songbird waiting

to be discovered.

mm

Author: Grace Wagner

Grace Wagner is a queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent poet and artist living with a disability in Denver, Colorado. They hold an MFA in Poetry and a certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Houston where they studied with Martha Serpas, Kevin Prufer, and Erin Bellieu. They have previously studied with Carolyn Forché, Robert Pinsky, and others. They were awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize in 2020, and their work can be found in Salmagundi Magazine, The Atlanta Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Offing, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. For more, visit www.gracewagnerpoet.com.

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