Extinct

Now it’s gone, of course,
there’s much lamenting.
The talk is all of better things
we knew when it was here –
the crisp, sure crash of winter surf,
dog foxes barking in the night,
a wife’s girlish laugh again,
the delicate ruining of rain.

The worst of us have precious relics:
thimbles of ground bone, some parchment skin,
a fur laid gentle for its cure, coupling rites
at the last known nest site.

The old man kept one once.
Storm-broke, it lay by his fire for weeks.
Unfree, and maimed at that, he told us
all the same it changed his life.
He’d return from a fishing trip
empty-handed to find the objects
of his house buoyed in a light
he hadn’t known since youth.
Woke with the view of a town
he’d read of once but never seen,
a thousand miles away in the morning.
Flames sang, the old boy claimed,
when he laid the creature by.
A chorus of rooks and owls answered
its mewls, as did the winds themselves,
and his own sighs in winter silence.
But when he came to tell us the new weight
of stone, the boon of shells echoing a song,
the delicate absolution of cliff-born flowers
one late spring afternoon… we let him be.

Slunk back to the shame we’ve protected
ever since, heedless of the cost.
Now it has the run of things. From field edge
to shore, there’s not a gorse thicket or rotten bole,
not a broken wall or crevice anywhere
it doesn’t use to breed all season long.
A colony of remorse.

Foreigners we encourage.
Come in their disbelief to gawp
at the ancient culling sites,
they leave laden, easing us for a while.

In winter, there’s fewer –
only the desperate or deranged,
hounded by a need to chart
their sadness constantly.

The old man’s cottage is a shrine.
They stand there in ordinary light,
numinous at the loss while outside,
wheeling through the beggared sky,
gulls cry constantly, sounding
every gutter of the heart.

 

Craig’s had poems published in The London Magazine, The North, The Rialto, Agenda, Stand, New Welsh Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Under the Radar, Orbis, Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Frogmore Papers, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Message in a Bottle, Magma and Prole. He’s got work forthcoming in Acumen, Antiphon, Neon and Lighten Up Online.