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Clade Song 4

Dear Interpreter of Atoms and Molecules, Crazed Glass and Dreams,
here is the sculpture that rose in the arena of my mind last night
while the outside crust of me, prone and placid,
curled, snoring in the human cave of sleep.
First a man drove a pickup with his leashed African lion
right into the coliseum, using the discretionary entrance
outside the taxidermy museum.  
The barkers came through the stands
selling skewered hedgehogs and popped crickets
to the shrieking audience; then a pandemonium of species
erupted from the little doors that led to the field;
three-toed sloths, Caspian tigers, the last puma seen
north of the Andes, silver parrots clicking in Aramaic,
three firebirds in flapper attire, a hog in leather on roller skates,
a cassowary in a straw hat, hiding
his bent taste for your heart.
The crowd is wild with cameras and rifles
and the clinking of specimen jars.
Then the fiesta evaporates, the fanfare scatters,
I am alone in the stadium as it begins to fill
with lava and ash and cold slices of glass, none of which
I can hold to the sky to bring back
that last Quagga, the great auk,
the pygmy tarsier, the little dodo
who was just about to be born as I awoke.  
Dear Interpreter of Disaster,
an explanation is not compulsory,
but please leave me a little glass eye,
handfuls of feathers, a spotted fin,
a smudge of ancient, unpetted fur.



Heather Altfeld Heather Altfeld is a writer, mother, cook, teacher, and occasional gardener with a side interest in taxidermy. She loves to travel and has photographed taxidermy in at least twenty different locations worldwide. This poem was written in part after reading Marina Belozerskaya’s “The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power” and after a long-ago trip to Napoli and Vesuvius. Her recent and upcoming poems can be found in ZYZZYVA, Poetry Northwest, North American Review, Narrative Magazine, and others. She is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and is at work on several sorts of writing projects, including a second book of poetry.You can find out more about her here.