by Brittney Corrigan
Carefully, with a pair of kid-size scissors I borrow
from my child’s art supplies, I snip each round
opening in the six-pack yoke, imagine the sea
creatures I’m sparing. Turtles whose leathery
necks won’t bulge and split but will tuck neatly
back into their shells. When I think of us
here together in our swing around the sun—
our floods and fires, our stores of coal and oil,
the distance we put between us and those we hate,
our fondness for small, furred things, and light
through trees and standing at the ocean’s edge,
the distance we close between us and those we love—
it all feels like a blur, the round rock of our world
chasing a darkness that expands and expands
and expands. When faced with dizzying
heights, our human selves imagine jumping—
off the roof of a building, a bridge, a cliff.
But mostly we don’t jump. Mostly we step back,
invincible. We retract our fear inside us, shell
our hearts. No wonder we hurtle our way through
extinction after extinction, grazing the edge.
Standing in my kitchen, holding the severed rings
as they dangle and twist, kelp-like, over the bin,
I am imagining the world without us, thinking
how we are staring down the void, barely able to resist
its existential call. Every other living thing on Earth
watching us, wishing we would hurl ourselves in.
Elegy for One Billion ANimals
We can say to ourselves you didn’t suffer, but the truth
is a lick of flame climbing a brittle tree. Suffering is
the charred husks of bristlebirds. The singe of koala fur.
We can say it was only lightning at fault, but the truth
falls like ash. Wishing it were water, we wade ankle deep
in what remains, what skink and frog bodies have become.
We can say we’ll help you who have survived. We drop
carrots and sweet potatoes from the sky into wallaby paws.
Heat so thick it pulsates. No telling smoke from ghosts.
Little pouched ones, you mortal convoys scurrying
from the flames. If only we could turn out our pockets
and find you whole. We can say we’ll carry you:
scoop up you withered dunnarts and quokka, greater gliders
with your smoldering tails. Your black eyes like embering
coals as we wrap what’s left of you in the shirts off our backs.
But oh, honeyeater. Glossy cockatoo. Your nests exploding
suns as you lift and find no haven in the blackened air.
What can we do to resurrect you? What on earth can we say?
Brittney Corrigan was raised in Colorado but has called Portland, Oregon her home since 1990. She holds a degree from Reed College, where she is also employed. Brittney’s poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and she is the author of the collection Navigation (The Habit of Rainy Nights Press) and the chapbook 40 Weeks (Finishing Line Press). Her newest collection, Daughters, a series of persona poems in the voices of daughters of various characters from folklore, mythology, and popular culture, is forthcoming from Airlie Press in 2021. For more information, visit Brittney’s website: http://brittneycorrigan.com/.