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Hannah Rodabaugh : Three poems

Greater Short-tailed Bat, 1965

There is only one photograph of you that we
Know of in existence—           it's 1965—           grimy—a biologist
Holds you—           your wings distorted behind you—           a kill of
Stamina folded out of you—           that you
Lived as bats did
Before that moment—             where in the
Glare of the camera flash—           you are
Weakened—             that it drained you of any life you
Knew up until that moment—
Where you look delicate and broken—
Already extinct.

I Need You to Build a Tomb for 3.5 Billion Passenger Pigeons

When we visit a grave,
We visit the absence of a person
That is heavily ritualized
Through our cultural funerary rites.

But who do we visit
In the deaths of animals?—
No tomb or fixed location
To nail our grief.

Their bodies are weeping
Putrid rot back into dirt
With no funeral to commemorate
Their absences.

Sure—plenty of us
Die unregarded too—
Plague deaths—ossuary—
But extinction? That            matters.

That deserves obelisk
As city pedestrian fiscal responsibility
Like for local hero
Or money-crusted magistrate.

Can't we have
A place to go to
To mourn our dead?
Our                 real dead.
The lives that              need
To be remembered.

Priorities | Memento Mori[1]

What can I
say to
apologize for my failings?

What spider or gnat do
I kill
now as nuisance

that will be
tomorrow's passenger
pigeon or Carolina parakeet?[2]

They were so numerous that
they didn't
matter to me—

that I didn't learn their
or take pictures.

They were not other
until extinguished.

It took extinction to
them other to us.

How no
photos exist
of the Carolina parakeet except

one of
a bird named Doodles perching

next to a man's
face, and
one which is clearly doctored.

Like what were people
with cameras in

the eighteen hundreds
not taking pictures of

green parakeets in
the eastern half
of the country by the millions?

Here is my mother's
death photo—
she was a lovely corpse.

You are
her genetic inheritor—she
lives in you.

A question of how
we determine if our priorities
are skewed or not.

Should you
have taken pictures
of what you know

or what you know
have value?

Is there even

Everyone's relatives
played out in parakeets at
some point

only no one
cares about their

Everyone  really into
Victorian fad
of taking

photos of bodies at funerals
while we
struggle to conceive of

the landscape those
bodies lived in

I look at the doctored
of the parakeet

posed on dead branches
and I
think it looks flat—

out of paper—
how can it

have been
bright green

How can life have existed
in what we
cannot mention?

On our
chairs around the
dinner table,

Would you like
to see a photo of our dead
daughter posed in this

rocking chair
surrounded by
her sisters?

millions of parakeets
are being extinguished

like a good-bye game
play with school children.

What gets to
be remembered has to do
with politics.

We do not remember
what we ourselves

Hannah Rodabaugh: I have an MA from Miami University and an MFA from Naropa University. My work has been published or is forthcoming in Berkeley Poetry Review, ROAR Magazine, Horse Less Review, Written River, Rat's Ass Review, Nerve Lantern, Antinarrative, & HOOT. I have a chapbook of poems out from Dancing Girl Press & another chapbook forthcoming from Another New Calligraphy. I have poetry in Flim Forum Press’ anthology A Sing Economy and Nerve Lantern's Yoko Ono: A Tribute to Yoko Ono, a collection of writing in response to Yoko Ono's performance art. I've received grants from the Idaho Commission on the Arts and the Alexa Rose Foundation, and I am the 2017 Artist in Residence for Craters of the Moon National Monument. (I am also on Twitter and have a blog/website.) 

[1] Post-mortem photography—or taking photos of the dead often posed in lifelike positions—became common during the 19th century.
[2] A now extinct species of brightly-colored parrot that was indigenous from North Carolina to Florida.

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