Last Wild Note

One curl of smoke, black. One flash of feathers, white.

Yesterday’s gnarled stand of dense green undergrowth –
a sweating warren where the ticking tree frogs and cackling crickets
sweetly serenaded the shadows playing upon my back porch –
today
lies smoldering
and silent.

Sometime after dusk, curved blades were drawn. Torches, kindled.

Safe behind our panes of glass we witnessed
barbed sparks being thrust into piles of soft brown tinder –
smoking brands snapping and tumbling into russet-colored flame –
and finally as forest ruptured into roaring conflagration
red and meteoric
every living thing with a means fled.
And the rest –
the rest burned
and burned
and burned through the blackness bewildered as we watched.

Near dawn
charcoal smoldered
where a garrison of sparrows
once shattered the horizon with their heart-song.

Hunger’s hollow howl. That is why the morning is so silent.

When the sky lightens, the machete men will return
worn-handled weapons writhing between threadbare legs and calloused feet.
They will rake the char field; stroking, staking, scissoring
hopeful handfuls of seeds into callow, stout-faced furrows.
Soon, a starred field of melons will bask belly-up in the sun.
Naked, obscene, panting and perspiring through the heavy summer afternoons,
sated and content, coiling fat tendrils around earth’s ashen, fractured fingers,
scarred skins glistening as twilight lingers.                 But first,

like a curl of black smoke, in a flash of white feathers
a snowy egret – coy and angelic
alights with a cry – a last wild note
at the sight of majesty evacuating
blazes away astride the newly-crested Sun
blazes away from the absent Eden
blazes towards the distance, the growing
grey
haze.

Sheyna Gifford

Sheyna Gifford

Sheyna E. Gifford, MA, MSc, MD, started working for NASA in 1997. Her first project was a Mars Spacesuit design proposal for the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Since then, she has worked on a satellite project (HESSI), a cosmology research project (DEEP2), written for Astrobiology Magazine, and, most recently, gotten onboard the mission to simulated Mars. She hopes to use her degrees in Neuroscience, Medicine, Biotechnology and Journalism to do great space science and medicine, and communicate those discoveries to the world. She has written extensively for academic and literary journals, including Aeon, Narratively, Nautil.us, and the Huffington Post.
Sheyna Gifford

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Author: Sheyna Gifford

Sheyna E. Gifford, MA, MSc, MD, started working for NASA in 1997. Her first project was a Mars Spacesuit design proposal for the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Since then, she has worked on a satellite project (HESSI), a cosmology research project (DEEP2), written for Astrobiology Magazine, and, most recently, gotten onboard the mission to simulated Mars. She hopes to use her degrees in Neuroscience, Medicine, Biotechnology and Journalism to do great space science and medicine, and communicate those discoveries to the world. She has written extensively for academic and literary journals, including Aeon, Narratively, Nautil.us, and the Huffington Post.