brief thought is endless. A
man speaks as if unaware of the
erotic life of the ampersand. In the
isolate field he comes to count one by
one the rare butterflies as they
die. He says witness is to say what
you mean as if you mean it. So many
of them are the color of the leaves
they feed on, he calls sympathy a fact, a
word by which he means to make a claim
about grace. I have in my
life said many things I did not
exactly mean. Walk
graceless through the field. Graceless so
the insects leap up into the blank
page where the margins fill
with numbers that speak diminishment.
Absence as it nears also offers astonishment.
Absence riddles even this
briefest thought, here
is your introduction to desire, time’s
underneath where the roots root down
into nothing like loose threads
hanging from the weaving’s underside.
No one seeing the roots
at the field above. Green
equation that ends in yellow
occasions. Theory is
insubstantial. The eye latches on
to the butterflies as they fly
and the quick heart follows, not
a root in nothing but a thread across
abstraction. They fly away.
What in us follows we do not name.
What the butterflies pull out us
as in battle horses pull
chariot, we do not
name. But there is none, no battle,
no surge, no retreat, a field
full not of danger, but the endangered,
where dust-wings pull from us
what we thought we lost, what theory
denies, where in us ideas go to die,
and thought with the quaking grass quakes.
Some call it breath but I’m still breathing.
So empty I know I’m not any emptier.
On slim threads they pull it out me,
one takes notes—disappear, &
Copyright © 2016 by Dan Beachy-Quick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 25, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“Most immediately, ‘Endangered Species’ responds to the gradual disappearance of a number of butterfly species, most notably the monarch. But in more abstract ways, the poem tries to work within that oldest sense of reciprocity, wherein what damage occurs in the world, also occurs within those considering it, and that realm of thought and idea, so easily assumed to be caught in ideals and so free from actual diminishment, is also diminished—as the world is what one thinks about, and to lose it, is also to witness the loss of the mind.”
Dan Beachy-Quick is the author of several books of poetry, including gentlessness (Tupelo Press, 2015).
Date Published: 2016-03-25
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/endangered-species