I have never seen one. Only in a dream. Only that. I saw it come out of the shadow of waves filling the frame of my sight. I remember its silhouette. Only that.
The Maori’s once arrayed war canoes with their feathers whose wings sweep out to nine feet, the exact span of the sea rise when the great glaciers melt, when their islands fade out, when their years in the wind end in a homecoming to nothing but breakers.*
I imagined volunteering with elephants in Tennessee**, of stepping into their sight to serve.
Their murders arrive by cyanide in Zimbabwe, in Kenya with Kalashnikovs.
I think of wolves. I have seen them in the wild, loping between charred trees in a draw. At a rescue I touched an alpha’s great barrel sides through a fence.
They shoot them from helicopters in Alaska. They lie in wait for them outside Yellowstone.
I think of polar bears and the great whales, orangutans, jaguars, tigers low in the cover of scrub, rivers of birds in the great rain forests of the southern hemisphere.
I think of elephants raising their trumpet-voices to others miles away on the savannah, to lions, whose eyes reflect moonlight, roaring — these the outcries of uncommon creations.
Then I must stop thinking. They are withdrawing from the world into a long red dusk, one by one, story by story.
Nothing changes here. The sun appears, highways fill, offices and schools sigh awake. Our busy voices will suffice.
But occasionally, we will wonder how to recount this affliction we cannot quite name.
More of us will dream of them. It has already begun.
I wonder will our cries corrode the air, their deaths stagger us? Will we think of them in their absence? Or fashion a word that might translate this sorrow?
Even now as you read this, lions lie down in dust at zoos and look up at curious beasts, perched along a harsh sky like gargoyles.
Bronze lion from Etruria; 2500 years old
Albatross carving by Todd Cooper