The Sixth Extinction

the beginning of the end.

i sat down one evening
and began to write a list-

a list i hoped would be short
and simple and quick
a list of a few names
and a few places
and no more,
no more-

but the list went on and on
and the more i searched,
the lengthier the list was,
and the more frantic i became
as reality came crashing through the door
and made itself home
in the crevices of my thoughts

i wrote and i wrote
as the pen ran out of ink
and the paper bled with tears

i wrote
until i could write no more,
no more.

it was list veiled in black
and echoing with silent screams

it was a list of the dying.
and its length was long.

most people write bucket lists
of things they want to do,
places they want to see,
memories they want to make
before they die.

i wrote a list of beings
i want to see before they vanish.

it’s different, you see.

in this list,
they are the ones that are dying,
not i.
one. lonely.

we all feel alone sometimes
some more than others

and sometimes
we renounce our ecological nature-
the sequence in our genetic code
that writ us to be social beings-

and we make ourselves
islands in a sea of
seven billion

but do we know the meaning
of true loneliness?

maybe we should have
asked Lonesome George,
the Pinta island tortoise

maybe we should ask
the /Achatinella apexfulva/ snail or
the Panamanian golden frogs


what do we know of being an
the last individual on the records
before your kind is marked with
a big, red x-

we know nothing
of the true
meaning of

two. it takes two.

we have this concept of love
as something that cannot be defined

love, ah love, we say,
it is a hug, it is a smile, it is a
whisper in your ear, and a yell of joy,
it’s sunshine, it’s rain,
it’s everything, it’s a rush,
it’s nothing, it’s subtle

but what is it really?
other than a chain of
biochemical and neural
pathways in your brain
and your hormones.

our romantic sensibilities
prevent us from
reducing love into
an artificial context

but when the species
we have decimated to
the extent
that there are

only two

we have no choice
and gone are our
romantic notions
of love and natural mating

replaced with the cold
artificial reproduction
and the warm hopes
and prayers
of those who care.

three. three’s a crowd?

it keeps me up at night
the thought
of three
gentle behemoths
wrinkled skin and a
doe-eyed composure

the last of the northern white rhinos

surrounded by 24 hour
constant vigilance and an
armed guard
who work to keep
these animals
from joining the lists
too many species
have been added to

and it strikes to me
as a tragic dichotomy,
the thought of these
protected by the species
that had caused them the
greatest harms

and what terrible
roles we play in
the natural world

the sinners and the saviors

four. jaws.

my favorite movie
is jaws-
the story of a monstrous
shark on a killing spree by
a coastal New England town-

oh god

i refused to go to the beach
that summer, i would play
safely in the grass by the

a few years ago,
i came across a pair of dead
baby sharks
swept ashore
tiny little creatures
alone and unmoving,
cradled by the soft lapping
of the tide,
and suddenly
all i felt was a sudden rush
of pity and compassion

that night
i watched jaws again
with this newfound love
and went to bed dreaming
of fins gliding across
the surface of waves

and yesterday i learnt that

1/4 of all sharks and rays
are currently threatened
with death and extinction

you see, the real villains of the
cinema of reality
is what you see when
you look in the mirror

no, not you, per se
but us and the fish market
we rely on to feed our
insatiable hunger
because we are draining
our oceans one apathetic trawl
at a time and we are ruining our
waters with our waste and pollution

and yet we still have the audacity to
see the sharks as the
monsters of the seas

five. the past.

sometimes i lay on the
ground outside
and think of everything
the world
beneath my fingertips
has gone through

the survival of the microbes
to the colonization
of land
and ancient jellyfish
and ancestral chordata
and insects and dinosaurs
and tiny small mammals

each distinct era marked
with death and
a fundamental shift
in the natural order
of things-
a time of
ruination and

a mother’s chastise
that even the giants
will fall
a mother’s love
for the smaller lives
who deserve a chance

i think about all of these things
and i stretch my fingertips
across the planet
and i sink my body
into the ground
and seek
the depth of struggle
the strength of survival
of those long dead

the end of the beginning.

weariness takes ahold
in the creaks of my bones
and the vibrations of my voice
and the word “tired” flows with my blood
and weighs down in my heart.

i cannot go on.

but i must.

i must write, i must read,
i must listen, i must speak.

for the flora, the fauna,
their future and ours.

i must

and so i will.


By Deepti Kamma


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