Field Guide to the Lost Species of California – Iris Jamahl Dunkle

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

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.

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