“Glancing Backward” by Thalia Field.

on the sinking ark, look for the elephants first and drop them overboard before anyone else.
—Vilfredo Pereto

  • We also say earth is “like a person”
  • a hypothesis — another goddess —
  • hold up, Gaia, it will only take a minute (more or less)
  • in geothermal time
  • — to wake — any second now!
  • to tally what is spent and not repaid —
  • a kind of carbon song-cycle on a televised talent contest.

  • Emancipation says, release from the hand —
  • all who can fly
  • all who can run
  • and crawl, worms, into unchewed boreal leaf-litter —
  • where bees can’t follow disoriented Orpheus,
  • his self-serving crooning, his pretend
  • not-knowing where madness lies
  • between flower and fruit.

  • And from whatever self-proclaimed God’s fat fist
  • ex manus capere —
  • do we expect release,
  • when mighty Zeus sits hoarding bullion and fresh-water,
  • blocking the clean-up crew from his trashed hotel room.
  • And tired Atlas drops the ball, to chase imaginary dragons
  • rather than uphold Minnie, Beulah, and Karen —
  • elephant plaintiffs before the High Court
  • seeking release from the daily, greedy circus —
  • Judge: “Their petition is wholly frivolous.”

  • And while pending appeal, Beulah falls on her side
  • at the Big E fair in Springfield, Mass and dies.
  • Killed by those who say they love animals,
  • (so many of us love animals)
  • another empire killed by those who pretend to defend it.
  • What simple rule did we ignore?
  • What moment past the tipping point?
  • Which magic word?

Photograph by Jill Alibrandi; excerpt from Thalia Field’s Personhood, forthcoming from New Directions.