Three Poems

Poetry / Kristy Bowen

:: from extinction event ::

It’s sum­mer, and it’s always a par­ty. Bring only what you can car­ry in your tiny shell. In this tiny  hell you call day­light. Bell sleeves and body glit­ter. Your best teeth to bite the hand that feeds  you. We mis­took it for a pic­nic, so we made pota­to sal­ad that rot­ted in the sun. One gala apple after anoth­er we shot off each other’s heads. After all, the fos­sils weren’t remains, not real­ly, but the mass that took up the space where we were. Filled the holes we left behind. Noth­ing but hair  and bone, when we were once so pret­ty. Tidi­ly pack­ing for an after­noon in the ammu­ni­tion fields, wield­ing our bas­kets over hills. Killing the birds with rocks and fill­ing our pock­ets with  shells. Look at the way our bod­ies glint under the ozone glow. The foot­prints that van­ish before dawn. The clear­ing we claimed as ours swal­low­ing us whole until noth­ing was left but a spoon, a bro­ken plate. The inevitable par­ty after the par­ty died out, our sequins scat­tered in the dirt. 

:: from extinction event ::

Even­tu­al­ly we need a place to house the bones. Room after room stuffed with the dead. In the base­ment we stack them on shelves and tuck them into draw­ers. Ours, the best kind of  chlo­ro­form, the sleep you descend into like a stair­case. A swift twist of the neck. We almost believed you were dead, except for the slow growl of a pulse. The way your eyes flick­er when we drag a comb through the mat­ted fur. How you mewl and hiss through the slats after every­one  goes home. Morn­ing, play­ing pos­sum at the bot­tom of your glass cage. The bust­ed latch  fas­tened from the inside. We almost believed you want­ed out. 


:: from extinction event ::

In this box, I col­lect the bro­ken things. The twist­ed oak, the dusty lynx. Bud­gies and buntings and speck­led hawks tum­bled from their nests. We are going on a pic­nic and can take only the most unfor­tu­nate. The deer miss­ing its antler, the one-eyed frog. Like Noah, we build and build, but the space gets small­er. Noth­ing can breathe, least of all me. My lungs stopped up with feath­ers and the small ani­mals I’ve smug­gled inside the body for safe keep­ing. In the box, we rus­tle the feath­ers and bend the bones, but noth­ing fits. Even side by side, stacked ver­ti­cal­ly in rows. Noth­ing sits upright or thrives. We name them, tag their tiny feet, and still, noth­ing moves inside the box. All night we soothe them with sounds their moth­ers make, but still they sleep and dream of trees. 



From the writer


:: Account ::

extinc­tion event is a series of pieces writ­ten in prepa­ra­tion for a read­ing at the Field Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in the fall of 2019. While I was grant­ed full access to the col­lec­tions and had vague ideas going in to write about dinosaur fos­sils, I nev­er set out to write some­thing so apoc­a­lyp­tic (I already have an entire book ded­i­cat­ed to the apoc­a­lypse), but it hap­pened nev­er­the­less, this time not through a lens of nuclear war­fare or zom­bie plagues but via cli­mate change and the alarm­ing­ly fre­quent extinc­tion event mark­ers laid out through evo­lu­tion­ary exhibits. I also spent a good chunk of my vis­its in the Hall of Birds, then read­ing about evo­lu­tion­ary links between dinosaurs and their near­est sur­viv­ing ances­tors, as well as doing research on ear­ly muse­um dio­ra­ma artists like Carl Ake­ley. The series increas­ing­ly became about the idea of muse­ums them­selves as doc­u­ments of lost worlds and the strug­gle to doc­u­ment what one day may be our own.


A writer and book artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of sex & vio­lence (Black Lawrence Press, 2020) and sev­er­al oth­er col­lec­tions, chap­books, artist books, and zines. She lives in Chica­go, where she runs danc­ing girl press & studio.