Ceremony for the Lost Ones

Today’s prompt was to write about animal/s and/or to write a sestina.  I love to play with forms, but this idea for a ritual to mark the grief for the loss of animals to extinction grabbed hold of me, and it felt too forced to put it into a sestina form.

Before you cross the threshhold,
remember to greet the guardians of the place.
Step to the center of the circle.

Stand still and silent,
watchful and waiting.
Close your eyes, and you will feel them all about you:
soft breath, whiskers, and feathers,
cool sinuous scales and rough bristles,
hints of movement like the whispers in a dream.

Turn to the east, to the birds, to the wing-folk,
turn to the flying ones, feathered and beaked ones.
Feel the sky darken as the Passenger Pigeons fly over.
Hear the maniacal bark of the Laughing Owl,
the whistles and chuckles of the Carolina Parakeet,
the caw and the clamor of the Hawaiian Crow,
the deep distant drumming of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.
All these, the People of the Wind, gone now.  Gone.

Turn to the south, to the mammals, the fur-folk,
the ones who run with the fire of the sun in their blood.
Here is Celia, last of the sure-footed Pyrenean Ibex.
There, standing silently like a shadow,
the West African Black Rhino.
And there, sliding down the riverbank,
the Japanese River Otter.
This one, the Eastern Cougar, stealthy as a dream
That one, the Formosan Clouded Leopard.
All these, the People of the Fire, gone now.  Gone.

Turn to the west, to the fish, to the fin-folk,
turn to the gill people, the swimmers, the divers,
the people of the moist places, the wetlands.
That sleek gentle head over there in the water
is Baiji, the dolphin of the Yangtze River.
There is the fluke of the Atlantic Gray Whale.
Shimmering in the cool depths,
the Blackfin Cisco, the Galapagos Damsel,
the Blue Walleye, the Gravenche.
In the swamps and the wetlands,
the Golden Toad, Holdridge’s Toad,
and the Cape Verde Giant Skink.
All these, the People of Water, gone now.  Gone.

Turn to the north, to the reptiles and insects,
turn to the cool ones, the scaly, the earth people.
Larger than a rock, there is Lonesome George,
the last of the Pinta Island Tortoises.
There, in coils, like a great rope,
the Round Island Burrowing Boa.
This lizard–the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp.
The Lake Pedder Earthworm,
the Polynesian Tree Snail,
the Rocky Mountain Locust.
All these, the People of the Earth, gone now.  Gone.

And wandering in brilliant circles and meanders
in the sky about us, but not yet within the circle,
bright orange butterflies, the Monarchs,
and droplets of sunlight zipping through the trees,
the Honeybees.  And others, too, not yet gone–
the Pangolin and the Mountain Gorilla,
the Hawaiian Monk Seal and the Island Fox,
the California Condor and the Amur Leopard.
All these, the next in line, the ones on the brink.

As you step out of the circle,
look to the air above you,
see the Bald Eagle wheeling on the wind,
the Peregrine Falcon diving toward earth.
See the Wolf, the Bison, the Bobcat.
These are the ones who stood on the brink,
who wandered back to the woods and the wildlands,
who walked away from that veil and returned.

Now we must shift.  Now we must change.
Now we must make a new way.

 

Gratitude List:
1.  The golden glow around the moon, there in the indigo sky.
2.  Chipping sparrow
3.  Forsythia and myrtle
4.  Local hangouts, where a really diverse local crowd can be happy together.
5.  Sleep.

May we walk in Beauty.

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