Requiem For Those Who Totter On The Brink of Doom: A Rare Poem

In observance on World Animal Day, we share with you a rare poem about ecological diversity. “Requiem For Those Who Totter On The Brink of Doom” is a Poem about the ecological diversity in Southern Illinois.


He stalks among the untrodden ways
Of minnesota's primeval wood:
A beast whom there are few to praise,
And almost non call "good."

The timber wolf, that creature dread,
Is on our Threatened Species List;
As a species, now almost dead--
And most say he will not be missed.

But it is not right, this wish of Man,
The wolf into extinction to send.
It was not Evolution's immediate plan
That this animal's existence should end!

The same is true of te Indiana bat,
Which Homo seems destined to extirpate,
Unless its "evil" image we can
Somehow--someway--negate

Who can make an osprey again
When the last one is gone from its native shore?
How will we re-create the prairie chicken when 
The last prairie is no more?

What of the bird with the ivory bill,
Near elimination from this earth?
And when the jack pine woods are still,
What was that last kirtland's warbler worth?

Requiem For Those Who Totter On The Brink of Doom: Poem Continues Below.

Pond at La Rue Pine Hills, Snake Road, Southern Illinois. Photo taken by Willy Martinez
Pond at La Rue Pine Hills, Snake Road, Southern Illinois. Photo taken by Willy Martinez
Will Man be able to synthesize
A replacement for the trumpeter swan?
When the wild lake's last shrill laughter dies,
Aren't we assured that the loon is gone?

An unnamed fish, recently discovered,
Has had its future compromised;
Man may already have wiped out the species
Before it was taxonomically recognized!

Others, too, in the same vein
Face extinction's all-final tomb;
The pupfish, key deer, sandhill crane
Totter on the brink of doom.

What gives us unquestioned right to 
Eliminate any one of these?
Are we so important in His sight
That He will condone such atrocities?

Why must Man demand dominion
Over his cohabitants of this sphere?
Why must he force on them his opinion
That they are no longer needed here?

Must he return them to the dust
From which he himself arose?
Wasn't our role a caretaker's trust,
Not the dominion we now impose?

The diversity law has been ignored.
It says this Earth-ark would better be
The more kinds of life we have aboard,
And the less likely catastrophe.

Must Man continue to snap each species' straw?
Is he too blind to see
That it is not his, but Nature's law:
The greatest good is in diversity!
Pond at La Rue Pine Hills, Snake Road, Southern Illinois. Photo taken by Willy Martinez
Pond at La Rue Pine Hills, Snake Road, Southern Illinois. Photo taken by Willy Martinez

This poem was published in the preface by Ezra Ownse, in “Those on the brink of doom : a study of rare fishes in the Shawnee National Forest.” A full version of this text has been uplaoded into the Internet Archive, here.

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