It’s the small ones that disappear first:
lavender butterflies that once freckled
the greasewood brush, delicate thistles whose ghosts
still sting. Then, we lost what we can gather
with our hands: the kangaroo rat, the white split tail.
Hardly even a meal in that tiny body, but we were hungry
for the dull stare of an empty lake void of any life.
We are the algae that comes, after. The green idea
of want and need. Then, when we settled down
into Missions and tilled the land, and what we conquered
were human bodies: sweat, cornmeal and tallow.
Alta, California, established in 1769, a machine of labor
swallowing everything in its path: aelo usque centrum
“from the sky to the center of the earth”.
Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s third poetry collection, Interrupted Geographies, was published by Trio House Press in 2017. Previous collections include: Gold Passage (2013) and There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air (2015). Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College and is the Poetry Director of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.